Patients are always surprised when either the hygienist or the dentist gives them some advice on how to brush your teeth and they often say “I didn’t know that!”. The patients’ reaction has not changed in my over 25 years of being in Dentistry. 19 years of that have been at my own practice where I have seen some patients for many years. In fact some have followed me from a previous practice and we will soon be celebrating our 22nd year anniversary. Yet as far as I am aware tooth brushing techniques have not changed in all that time and we at Merton Dental have consistently taught the same technique in all that time whether it is myself or any hygienist that has worked at the practice.
Before we consider the tips on how to brush your teeth, let us look at what is needed. In a previous post I mentioned a toothbrush, toothpaste, inter-dental aide and the correct length of time are the 4 things needed to brush your teeth. The type of tooth brush is important in terms of size and type of bristle as well as whether it is a manual or electric brush. The bristle type should usually be a medium type unless the patient has extremely exposed and sensitive necks of teeth when a soft tooth brush can be considered. A hard bristle is never a good idea nor is the use of a large head toothbrush, which is difficult in terms of access in the mouth and having to stretch to use it. If the teeth are not in perfect alignment, a large brush head will often be uncomfortable to use and will mean some surfaces will be cleaned better than others with the same brushing strokes.
Manual or electric toothbrush?
Manual or electric is a question that is often asked but in reality if you are able to use a manual tooth brush well than an electric option is not needed. However it is recommended to use an electric tooth brush if you are having difficulty in achieving good plaque control with a manual tooth brush. That can often seen at regular hygiene appointments when the brushing technique is assessed. Equally if brushing is not done at the correct frequency of twice a day and for the correct length of time of at least 3 to 4 minutes then both the manual and electric option is not good enough.
So how to brush your teeth?
Here are our top 10 tips:
- Brush your teeth twice a day in the morning before breakfast and at night before going to bed.
- Brush your teeth for at least 3 to 4 minutes whether you use a manual or electric brush so that all the surfaces of all the teeth get an equal chance of been brushed well.
- Most people start and finish brushing in the same place in their mouth thereby they get lazy and bored in the same place each time. Hence start brushing in a different place in your mouth each time so that your end point is not the same and is consequently not the least clean each time. An exception to this rule is any area where you find it most difficult to clean such as the lower inner surfaces of teeth closest to the tongue. I ask some patients to start here because they are at their most diligent when they start brushing and as their patience and enthusiasm runs out with time they can be cleaning less difficult surfaces of their mouth.
- Place the tooth brush head against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45 degree angle against the gum line then move the brush in small circular side to side movements, several times before flicking the brush head horizontally away from the gum surface. Repeat this on all the surfaces of every tooth. Depending on the size of the toothbrush head try not to do more than 2 teeth at a time so that you can ensure good contact between the bristles and the niche between the teeth and gums where the bacterial plaque sits.
- Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against the gum line with the procedure been used for both the inside and outside of your teeth as well as not forgetting to brush the biting surfaces of the teeth.
- Tilt the brush vertically to clean the inside of the front teeth upper and lower and make several small circular strokes with the toe (the front part) of the brush before flicking the brush head away from the gum.
- Brush your tongue which will freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria that has collected especially at the back of it.
- Spit but do not rinse your mouth thereby leaving all the good ingredients in toothpastes to continue to work on protecting your teeth and gums overnight.
- Rinse your toothbrush well after you use it so that you get rid of the bacteria that you have just dislodged from your mouth but remember to give it a good shake to get rid of the moisture as a wet toothbrush is more likely to harbor and breed bacteria.
- Change your toothbrush often so that you continue to achieve good oral hygiene results. Generally a toothbrush should be changed every 6 weeks or sooner especially if the bristles look frayed.
Having healthy teeth and gums takes teamwork between you, your dentist and hygienist. Following these tips on how to brush your teeth will help the team achieve that goal with you.