Knowing how to brush your teeth properly is the first and essential step in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Using the proper materials with the recommended technique and right daily frequency can help you maintain optimal oral health for a lifetime.
There are several questions and issues raised with toothbrushing and oral hygiene, such as:
How often I should brush?
Should I use a hard-bristled toothbrush?
What’s the best toothpaste?
Do I need to floss?
Why go to the dentist if I keep my teeth clean at home?
At Lasry Dental Clinic in Los Angeles, we like to give our patients the full details. Here are the answers to all your questions:
How Often Should You Brush Your Teeth?
Some people believe that timing is everything in life. That may or not be true about all of life, but it is undoubtedly true of oral health. Should you brush once each day, or should you brush after every meal? How long should you brush your teeth when you do brush? To answer these questions, we look to the experts at the American Dental Association (ADA).
The ADA recommends brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time. Using the proper technique and the right tools will sufficiently remove the dental plaque that causes dental cavities and gum disease.
Without daily removal, the acids in dental plaque start removing the hard minerals from your teeth. This accumulated plaque can eventually cause a cavity that requires a dental filling if it remains on a tooth.
Cavities aren’t the only problem caused by the accumulation of plaque; dental tartar or calculus can begin to form within 24-72 hours. This is a hardened material that adheres so tenaciously to teeth that it requires a dental professional’s removal or it can create several oral health problems.
Dental tartar can contribute to cavity formation by making it more challenging to brush your teeth. It can also lead to inflammation of the gums, which can progress to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a more severe condition that often results in gum surgery or possibly losing a tooth.
When you think of toothbrushing, think 2 X 2. Two times a day for two minutes each time to remove dental plaque and prevent the formation of dental calculus.
How To Brush Your Teeth Properly Step By Step
It is possible to cause harm while brushing without the proper equipment and by utilizing a poor technique. The first and significant consideration is the toothbrush bristles.
Stiffer bristles are not more desirable. Yes, a stiffer bristle brush does clean harder surfaces better. But during toothbrushing, you are not only caring for your teeth but your gums as well.
It is essential to keep the gums around your teeth free of inflammation and disease. Soft bristles will gently massage the gums and keep them healthy by increasing blood flow to these important tissues. At the same time, soft bristles are sufficient to remove plaque from the hard tooth surfaces.
Stiff bristles can cause a significant problem known as “toothbrush abrasion,” which occurs when the tooth enamel is damaged, and the gum pushed back. This recessed gum area exposes the underlying tooth root, which can be very sensitive.
Using an improper technique such as a horizontal brushing motion can create similar problems. A proper brushing technique includes the following elements:
- Use the proper size toothbrush. You should be able to reach all areas of your mouth easily. Some toothbrush heads are too large for people with small mouths.
- Use an ADA-approved toothpaste. A small amount, about pea-sized, is adequate.
- Wait 30 minutes after eating acidic foods before brushing.
- Position the soft-bristled brush at a forty-five-degree angle to where the tooth and gum meet.
- Use a gentle, circular motion and avoid any horizontal brushing.
- Be sure to systematically move around your mouth so that you are sure to clean the tooth surfaces facing outward (toward your cheek), inward (toward your tongue and palate), and the tops or chewing surfaces.
Following these guidelines twice each day for two minutes each time will keep the plaque off your teeth and help avoid tooth and gum disease.
Extra Oral Hygiene Tips
A common question dentists get asked is, “What is the best toothpaste?” The answer is that there isn’t one best toothpaste. There are many excellent kinds of toothpaste to choose from according to each individual’s need. Here are a few considerations when choosing your toothpaste:
- Most dentists recommend a fluoridated toothpaste because fluoride strengthens enamel and prevents tooth decay.
- Whitening toothpaste can remove surface stains but will not give the same results as professional tooth bleaching or cleaning. However, some find it beneficial.
- There are certain kinds of toothpaste for sensitive teeth that can be very helpful.
- Your dentist is the best person to recommend the best toothpaste for you to use.
You will also want to spend time and research the best toothbrush to use. There are many kinds available today. Options range from anti-bacterial manual toothbrushes to more expensive ultrasonic electric toothbrushes.
In addition to the bristles’ softness, you will want to consider the head and the handle’s size and shape. You need to choose a brush that is safe and easy to use. Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if you notice your bristles look worn or damaged.
New and improved electric toothbrushes are available that many people are choosing to maintain their oral health. These include models that use a circular motion or ultrasonic motion. Personal preference dictates the choice but learning how to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush takes a little more time to perfect. Each model is different and following the instructions closely is essential for safety and effectiveness.
How important is flossing? Just as important, if not more so, than brushing. If you never brushed your teeth (not recommended), your teeth’s visible surfaces would get cleaned when you ate certain foods such as apples or raw vegetables. But without flossing, those invisible areas beneath your gums and between your teeth will never get cleaned. From an oral health standpoint, the consequences are devastating. Neglecting to floss is sure to result in cavities and gum disease.
Here’s a summary of the proper flossing technique recommended by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association:
- Break off 18 inches of dental floss. Wrap this around your two middle fingers, and then pinch the floss between your index fingers and thumbs.
- Keep an inch or two between the index fingers, and use your index fingers to gently slide the floss between your teeth.
- Wrap it gently against each tooth.
- Use a gentle up and down motion to slide the floss against each tooth surface and beneath the gum.
When To See Your Dentist
Learning how to brush your teeth properly, practicing it twice daily, and flossing every day will help you maintain your oral health. Equally as important to these is seeing your dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and examination.
Regular dental checkups help ensure that cavities or other problems aren’t developing. A professional tooth cleaning removes plaque and tartar that you might be missing, which could develop into more serious problems. Your dentist will also take periodic X-rays when needed for a thorough examination.
It is important to see your dentist between your regular exams if you experience pain in your teeth, gums, or jaw. Pain in these areas could be a straightforward issue or indicate a more serious dental or medical problem.
While carrying out your home oral care, you may notice something out of the ordinary, such as a dark spot on your tooth, gum, or inside your cheek. It might be a chipped tooth or swollen gum. You should contact your dentist if you notice these or anything else out of the ordinary.