A friend of mine (hi Allan!) recently confessed to me that he didn’t really know what the best technique is for brushing and flossing. Having said that, he’s not the only one! When I ask my patients if they have ever been shown how to brush correctly, most of them will tell me that they have never been shown or told. So I’m going to lay out some tips below, as well as some explanations about what to do, and why we do it.
This week I’m going to explain some of the reasons for brushing, at what age your kids should start, and how often to brush/floss. I’m also going to outline some of the common misconceptions about brushing and dental health in general.
Next week, I will give specific advice about how to brush and floss, with some videos showing the technique.
- We brush our teeth to remove any food.
Whilst nobody wants “spinach smile”, it is mainly the plaque that you are trying to remove when brushing/flossing. Plaque is the sticky white coating that builds up on teeth, particularly after eating/drinking sweet things. This is a layer of bacteria that are using the sugar in your diet as fuel, and these bugs can be very destructive to your teeth as well as your gums.
- It’s ok to eat sweeties if you brush your teeth immediately afterwards.
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. The sugar gets into your saliva, and washes the teeth, causing a build up of plaque. Even if you brush your teeth, you obviously cannot brush away your saliva, so the bugs keep multiplying. It takes about 90 minutes for the sugar to go away, and for your saliva to return to normal.
- Sugar in tea/coffee or other drinks doesn’t count.
- If you cut down on the amount of sugar in tea/coffee then this is good for your teeth.
Sort of true, but what’s more important is not how much sugar/sweets you have, but how often you have them. Remember it takes 90 minutes for the sugar to get out of your saliva? That’s often just when people are thinking about another cup of tea or a snack. The longer you leave between these “sugar attacks”, the more chance that your saliva has to repair any damage done. Limit the frequency of sugar, avoid “grazing”, and give your mouth recovery time.
- Brush your teeth immediately after eating.
It’s probably better to wait a little while after eating before brushing, particularly if you have had something acidic. I have seen many patients suffering from acid damage to their teeth from brushing immediately after breakfast, which may contain orange juice or some other acidic juice (e.g. grapefruit juice – VERY acidic). If you think about what’s happening – it’s like dipping your brush in acid and scrubbing away at the enamel. Avoid very acidic fruits/drinks, wait 45 mins after breakfast before brushing & if you can’t do that, it’s probably better to brush before breakfast, or wait until lunchtime.
Acid damage to teeth
- It’s best to brush 3 times a day
This is debatable as overbrushing can be very damaging to your teeth. There is no doubt that brushing/flossing properly twice a day is better that a half-hearted effort three or more times, and twice is probably sufficient for most people who don’t have significant dental problems.
Next week I’m going to go through some specific techniques and tips for brushing, including some video of the tricky bit – flossing!
An elderly couple went into a fast food chain. The old man placed an order for one hamburger, French fries and a drink.
He unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half, placing one half
in front of his wife.
He then carefully counted out the French fries, dividing them into two piles and
neatly placed one pile in front of his wife.
He took a sip of the drink, his wife took a sip and then set the cup down
between them. As he began to eat his few bites of hamburger, the people around
them were looking over and whispering.
Obviously they were thinking, “that poor old couple – all they can afford is one
meal for the two of them.”
As the man began to eat his fries a young man came to the table and politely
offered to buy another meal for the old couple. The old man said, they were just
fine – they were used to sharing everything.
People closer to the table noticed the little old lady hadn’t eaten a bite. She
sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the
Again, the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for
them. This time the old woman said “No, thank you, we are used to sharing
Finally, as the old man finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin,
the young man again came over to the little old lady who had yet to eat a single
bite of food and asked “What is it you are waiting for?”
She answered. . . .
THE TEETH … ☺
Portobello Dental Clinic are delighted to announce that we are extending our opening hours to include Saturday from 10:00am to 3:00pm.
Dr Colm Traynor started Saturday clinics on 22nd January 2011. The clinic is open for emergency patients, as well as for general, cosmetic and advanced restorative treatments by appointment.
A toothbrush is not for life, it’s just for three months!
1. For consistent cleaning, brush your teeth and gums at the same time every day, e.g. after breakfast and before going to bed. Supervise children under seven.
2. Only use the recommended amount of toothpaste and ensure all teeth and gums are cleaned thoroughly. You can use different sized inter-dental brushes to clean plaque from inaccessible areas.
3. Make a special effort to quit smoking. Smoking is a major cause of preventable death and oral problems include bad breath, stained teeth, tooth loss and oral cancer. Your dentist can advise.
4. Change your toothbrush every three months and make sure to floss at least once a day.
5. Take time to read the sugar content of your food and drink and reduce intake of high sugar content foods. Keep snacks between meals to low-sugar or sugar-free foods.
6. Remember there is a relationship between oral health and general health and ask your dentist if a visit to your medical practitioner is appropriate.
7. Make a resolution to visit your dentist regularly so that small problems can be resolved before they become bigger, more complicated and expensive.
8. If you decide to whiten your teeth, make sure to discuss with your dentist who can ensure safe and professional teeth whitening under the care of a qualified dental practitioner.
9. Arrange preventative fissure sealants for children reaching the age of six or seven as directed by your dentist. Follow up at six or twelve months intervals.
10. If you notice ulcers or lumps in your mouth or neck persisting for more than a week, arrange to have an oral cancer screening appointment with your dentist.