BDS, Diploma in Hospital Administration, Diploma in Pharmacy
The Art of Brushing
1: Using the Right Tools
Use a good toothbrush
Choose a toothbrush with soft nylon bristles. This must effectively remove plaque and debris from your teeth, without irritating the gums or eroding tooth enamel like hard bristled brushes can do when used with sideways action. The toothbrush should also fit comfortably in your hand, and have a head small enough to easily reach all of your teeth, especially the ones at the back. If you have difficulty fitting the toothbrush into your mouth, it is probably too big.
Electric toothbrushes are a great choice if you are a lazy brusher and think that the electric toothbrush might encourage you to spend more time on your teeth. However, you can do just as good of a job with a manual toothbrush; it's all in the technique.
You should definitely avoid toothbrushes with "natural" bristles made from animal hair as these can harbor bacteria.
Replace your toothbrush regularly
The bristles will wear out over time, losing their flexibility and effectiveness. You should get a new one every 3 to 4 months, or as soon as the bristles start to splay out and lose their shape. Visual inspection of the toothbrush is more important than the actual timeline. You can also buy toothbrushes nowadays whose handles will change color when it's time to get a new one.
Research has found that thousands of microbes call toothbrush bristles and handles "Home" and can cause infections.
Always rinse your brush after using it, and store it upright and uncovered so that it can dry before your next use. Otherwise bacteria will grow.
Use fluoride toothpaste
It not only helps remove plaque, it also helps strengthen tooth enamel. However, it's important to note that fluoride toothpaste is not to be swallowed, as ingesting too much can have serious health consequences. It should not be used for children under the age of 3.
You can get toothpastes to target a wide variety of dental and gum problems, including cavities, tartar, sensitive teeth and gums, gingivitis and stained teeth. Opt for the one that suits your best or ask your dentist or hygienist for advice.
Use dental floss
Flossing your teeth is just as important as brushing, as it removes built up plaque, bacteria and food particles that get trapped between the teeth and which soft floppy toothbrush bristles can't reach even when used with up/down natural motion. You should always floss before brushing your teeth so that any food or bacteria that come loose during flossing doesn't remain in your mouth.
Remember to floss gently. Don't "snap" the floss between the teeth as this can irritate sensitive gums. Ease it down gently, following the curve of each tooth.
If you find dental floss awkward to use or you have braces, look for dental picks instead. These are small wooden or plastic sticks which you can insert between teeth, achieving the same results as flossing if spaces are large enough.
2: Mastering the Brushing Technique
Use a small amount of toothpaste
Squeeze only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto your toothbrush. Applying too much toothpaste can cause over-sudsing, tempting you to spit and finish too early. Plus, it increases the risk of you ingesting more fluoride-filled toothpaste, which is very unhealthy.
If brushing is painful, try brushing more gently with accurate up/down motion only or switch to a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth.
Set your bristles at the gum line at a 45-degree angle
Gently brush with a short, vertical or circular motion. Don't brush across your teeth.
Spend at least three minutes brushing
Brushing just a few teeth at a time, work your way around your mouth in a cycle (start outside lower left round to outside lower right, then outside upper right to upper left, change to inside uppers before inside upper right inside lower right, finally inside lower left) so that you get every tooth, spending about 12 to 15 seconds in each spot. If it helps, you can divide your mouth into quadrants: top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right. If you spend 30 seconds on each quadrant, you'll get a full two minutes of brushing time in.
If you get bored, try brushing your teeth while watching television or hum a song to yourself while you brush. Brushing your teeth for the duration of an entire song will ensure that you brush thoroughly.
Brush your molars
Position the toothbrush so that it's perpendicular to your lips, or so that the bristles are resting on top of your bottom molars. Work the toothbrush in an in-and-out motion, and move from the back of your mouth to the front. Repeat on the other side of your mouth. When the bottom teeth are clean, flip the toothbrush over and work on the top molars. To access outside top molars always swing the lower jaw to the side you are working on. This will increase the space available to move your brush up and down by several times so that no sideways motion occurs.
Gently brush your tongue
After you've cleaned your teeth, use the bristles of your toothbrush gently to clean your tongue. (Don't press too hard or you'll damage the tissue). This helps keep bad breath away and gets rid of bacteria on your tongue.
3. Finishing up:
Rinse out your mouth
If you choose to rinse after brushing, take a sip of water from a disposable cup, or cup your hands under the faucet. Swish it around your mouth, and spit it out.
Note that there is some debate on whether or not this is recommended. While some feel that it reduces the efficacy of the topical fluoride treatment, others wish to ensure that no fluoride is ingested. There are also those who just don't like having toothpaste in their mouths! If you're at a high risk of getting cavities, it may be beneficial not to rinse, or rinse with just a small amount of water, effectively creating a fluoride mouthwash.
Other studies have shown that rinsing after brushing has no significant impact on the effectiveness of brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
Rinse your toothbrush
Hold your toothbrush under running water for a few seconds to remove any bacteria from the brush. If you don't rinse the toothbrush properly, you can actually introduce old bacteria into your mouth the next time you use it. Rinsing also removes any leftover toothpaste. Place your toothbrush somewhere where it will easily dry out, otherwise bacteria can grow.
Finish with a fluoride-based mouthwash (Optional)
Take a small sip of mouthwash, swish it in your mouth for about 30 seconds, and spit it out. Be careful not to swallow any.
Rinse your mouth with salt water (Optional)
Saltwater kills the bad bacteria on your teeth. There is a rumor that saltwater is acidic and can erode teeth if used too often. It's better not to use it too often, as like anything, too much of anything is bad.
Remember to brush at least twice a day
Most dentists recommend that you brush at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. If you can fit in a third time somewhere in the middle, even better! Try brushing at a 45° angle as this helps remove plaque and food/drink particles on your teeth better than if you did it normally. You should also try to avoid snacking between meals as much as possible, as these results in more food debris and bacteria building up in the mouth.
At the very least, brush your teeth in the morning and before you go to bed. Brush after every meal if possible, but don't overdo it: too much brushing is not good for your teeth.
Wait at least 45 minutes before brushing your teeth after drinking soda, wine, or acidic juices such as orange juice. Sodas and juices leave residual acids on the teeth, and brushing can actually damage the enamel.
It is advisable to use mouthwash, but if you do use mouthwash, only use alcohol-free mouthwash.
If you can't brush after a meal, at least swish water in your mouth to loosen food particles.
Things to keep in mind:
Don't brush too hard. Gums are very sensitive tissue.
Change your toothbrush every 3 months. Splayed toothbrush bristles can cause gum damage.
Never use someone else's toothbrush. You can transfer germs, bacteria, and diseases through microscopic cuts in your mouth.
Wait for at least 45 minutes after eating acidic foods or drinks before brushing, to prevent erosion of tooth enamel. Do not skip brushing your teeth - skipping out on this vital practice can cause tooth decay.
Do not swallow toothpaste or mouthwash. They contain chemicals that are toxic if you swallow them e.g. ammonia and cetylpyridinium chloride.