How To Brush Your Teeth
How often should I brush my teeth?
The optimum regime is to thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day – in the morning to freshen up your mouth and in the evening to clean off the plaque that has accumulated during the day. It is also advisable to brush after lunch – since if you brush at eight in the morning and go to bed at 10 or 11 at night, you’ve got 14 or 15 hours of eating for bacteria to build up.
Correct Brushing Technique
It is important to note that the brushing technique is at least as important as the frequency of brushing. The fact is that too much brushing with bad technique can cause problems. Lots of people brush their teeth too hard and while they think they are doing a good job, often they are causing wear to the gums and tooth surface. People think receding gums are a sign of gum disease, but it’s often a sign of too much scrubbing.
It’s OK to brush your teeth using either a circular motion or an up-and-down motion. However when it comes to the gum line you should tip the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and apply gentle pressure so that the bristles blanchesjust under the gums, then vibrate there and flick away. Your brush shouldn’t travel across the gums. It’s important to get just underneath the gum because a lot of food and bacteria get trapped there.
You should always brush your tongue, or buy a tongue scraper. Bacteria and plaque stick to the tongue, so do it whenever you brush. It should take two to three minutes to do a thorough job.
Don’t brush for half an hour after eating, to give your saliva time to do its job and neutralise the acid caused by eating and drinking. Before this, your teeth are at their weakest and brushing can damage the enamel.
Manual or electric toothbrush?
Generally a small-headed toothbrush with soft bristles is the most efficient. And it is usually best to use a soft-to-medium toothbrush, as hard toothbrushes tend to cause more damage. Electric toothbrushes are best in some cases but not always, although we do often recommend the Oral B Pulsar electric brush which is available to buy here in the clinic. However the important thing is to learn the correct technique.
Do I really have to floss?
Yes. But once a day is fine. If you are susceptible to getting food trapped it is a good idea to carry floss with you and do it during the day. Otherwise floss at night, and ideally before brushing because flossing opens up your teeth slightly. When you brush afterwards, the fluoride in the toothpaste can seep into the tiny gaps between each tooth. Floss between every tooth, using clean floss for each one, and go up as far as it will go without ripping your gums. Gently saw the floss up underneath the gums and gently saw it out again. This cleans the tooth and root surface, and removes bacteria and food debris.
Should you use mouthwash?
A standard mouthwash can wash away the toothpaste’s beneficial ingredients. Eating sugar attracts bacteria that deposit acid, and this creates plaque, which erodes the tooth surface. The ingredients in fluoride toothpaste help to reinforce the surface, so it can make sense not to use a mouthwash unless you have a particular condition such as gum disease in which case mouthwash may be prescribed.
Should you rinse with water?
For children it is best to wash out the mouth after brushing, because if they still have adult teeth that have yet to come through, they may end up with too much fluoride in their body, which can damage their teeth. For adults, it’s good to leave a film, but in moderation – you don’t want a mouthful of toothpaste.
Why do my gums bleed when I brush my teeth?
As mentioned, bleeding gums can simply be a sign that you are brushing your teeth too hard, in which case try choosing a softer toothbrush and follow the technique outlined in this article. However bleeding can also occur if plaque is left on your teeth and along the gum line, leading to inflammation of the gums which become swollen and red. This condition is known as gingivitis and a tell-tale sign is bleeding when brushing. Gingivitis left untreated can lead to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. This disease leads to the destruction of the ligaments and bone that hold the teeth in place. Unless treated, the teeth may become loose, fall out or require removal. Be sure to consult your dentist if you notice your gums bleeding whilst brushing.