It is a common misconception that all you need for brushing your teeth is a toothbrush and some toothpaste and that would be enough to ensure your mouth is clean healthy without tooth decay or gum disease.
Brushing your teeth with a toothbrush alone whether manual or electric is never going to be enough to ensure your mouth is free of plaque or bacterial biofilm that causes inflammation, swelling, pain and bleeding because the toothbrush alone cannot ever gain access to all the sites where the plaque accumulates around your teeth even if you have a straight nicely aligned dentition. The four basic things you need are:
- Inter-dental aide
What about the toothpastes?
They are advertised constantly as super agents that have so many different functions that one stops at a supermarket shelf and wonders how an ordinary patient can choose from the vast array of wonderfully packaged and colourful products. I suspect it may be more to do with which one is on offer that week rather than the product itself. However, toothpastes have an important role in the fight against tooth decay by the delivery of fluoride to the teeth protecting and combating the decay process. Moreover, there are a number of toothpastes specifically designed to treat various conditions such as acid erosion and dentine hypersensitivity which are very useful and essential in treatments of these conditions. They generally have a slightly less important role to play in the fight against plaque when compared to the toothbrush role of mechanical removal of the plaque which is thought to be up to 95% successful when the correct brushing technique is used. In other words even though the toothpastes have specific ingredients to fight against plaque, calculus or tarter and gum inflammation, the mechanical removal of plaque using a toothbrush is more important.
What else is required for brushing your teeth?
Having mentioned that the mechanical removal of plaque is the most important aspect of brushing your teeth, one must have 2 other things for a good routine when it comes to oral hygiene. Firstly; no toothbrush can access all the sites around a tooth where the plaque accumulates and some form of inter-dental aide is required between the teeth. The choices range from floss or flossettes to the wide array of different inter-dental brushes or plastic picks available as well as water jet or air floss devices.
Secondly; the most forgotten element of all which is time. Without the correct length of time spent on cleaning your mouth the whole procedure is less than ideal exposing the mouth to both the possibility of tooth decay and gum disease. There seems to be a popular consensus that you should brush your teeth for 2 minutes which is probably more to do with the time taken for people to lose interest rather than scientific fact. In reality to actually brush your teeth properly whether using a manual or electric tooth brush it takes somewhere in the region of at least 3 to 4 minutes not including the use of a inter-dental aide such as floss or inter-proximal brush beforehand.
Hence the 4 things required for brushing your teeth are a toothbrush, toothpaste, inter-dental aide and the correct length of time.