Remember: brushing is performed to remove the plaque build up we discussed last week? This plaque causes both gum disease and tooth decay.
If you think about the shape of a tooth, a back tooth is sort of cube shaped, there is the top (biting) surface as well as the cheek side, tongue side, and the front and back surfaces which touch the teeth in front and behind. The bottom surface of our “cube” is actually the roots of the teeth buried in the gum.
When you brush, the most important place to brush is the junction of where the gum meets the tooth. This is where the plaque can cause gum disease, which “eats away” at the gum (and more importantly the bone), which supports your teeth. If you only brush and never floss (or use interdental brushes) then 2/5ths of your teeth never get cleaned!! This is why, as dentists, we tend to see gum disease starting and progressing quickly in the area between the teeth.
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If you are using an electric toothbrush, take your time; it is not meant to be quicker than a manual toothbrush. Move slowly over the teeth, angling the head to get into all the cracks a crevices as best you can. Do not scrub with an electric toothbrush!!!
If using a manual toothbrush get right down to where the gum meets the tooth, angle the brush head at 45° and use circular motions. Again – don’t vigorously scrub backwards and forwards!!!
- Use an electric toothbrush. Most dentists agree that electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual brushes; at Portobello Dental, we encourage all our patients to use an electric toothbrush and we all use them for our own oral hygiene. They are currently on special offer at the clinic €34.50 (r.r.p. €75.00); we buy them in bulk and sell them at cost price because we can see the improvements in our patient’s oral health when they start using them!
- Consider an interdental brush, or even flossettes instead of floss. they are often easier to use and can be even better; your dentist can describe what’s best for you.
- Try using plaque-disclosing tablets after brushing. These tablets highlight in red any areas that have plaque on them. It’s pretty surprising how much you have probably missed.
- Use a mouthwash. Use whatever brand you like best, most are effective and some are recommended before brushing, some after. Note: Corsodyl mouthwash can be very effective if there is an acute problem, but I would not recommend as a daily mouthwash as it can stain teeth an ugly brown!!
- Quit smoking! Sorry smokers – I know everybody is always giving you a hard time, but there’s no question – smoking is a major cause of gum disease and tooth loss.
- See your hygienist at least every 6 months. She can remove the hard tartar (or caculus/scale) that builds up on your teeth. This causes gum disease, and you cannot remove this with your toothbrush.
- When should you start brushing you children’s teeth? As soon as they appear! This can be any age, sometimes new-borns have their two front teeth already present! I would suggest using a very small amount of toothpaste, (pea sized), and supervise brushing until the child is at least 7 years old.
- When should you start flossing your child’s teeth? I’d wait until the adult teeth are through and the baby teeth are all lost; there’s not a lot of benefit to flossing a young child’s baby teeth, and most kids don’t have the dexterity to do it themselves until they are 12-13. Remember that with children’s teeth brushing is important, but the biggest cause of tooth decay in children is too much sugar/sweets/carbonated soft drinks in the diet.
- In Ireland mains water is fluoridated, and however you may feel about this contentious issue, there is no doubt that it is beneficial to you and your child’s dental health. In some areas the water may not be fluoridated, and the increasing use of bottled water and water filters has reduced the amount of fluoride we are getting in our diet. If you are concerned about this, or if you live in an area where there is no fluoride in the water supply, your dentist can prescribe fluoride tablets for you and your family.
- Broadly speaking; tooth decay tends to affect children and young adults; gum disease is typically a disease that affects adults, worsening as we age. Some people are more prone to it than others, but sooner or later, most people will develop it. Good brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent gum disease.
So, I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion around brushing and flossing, if you have any other questions or concerns about your dental health, please give us a call, we are more than happy to chat to you about keeping that smile looking good for life!