Brushing your teeth is something you do everyday, but how often do you think about it? If you are like me you may have been brushing the same way since childhood, but is that the best way?
How you brush your teeth is important as brushing your teeth properly prevents tooth decay and gum disease and also reduces your risk of heart disease, according to research published in the British Medical Journal in May last year.
How then should you brush your teeth? What do the dental experts say about how often you should brush your teeth; the best way to do so; how long to brush and the type of brush to use?
How often should you brush your teeth?
At least twice a day. One of these should be just before you go to bed. When you sleep, your mouth gets drier. This makes it easier for acids from bacteria to attack your teeth. Another should be early in the morning as this will get rid of the plaque that has built up on your teeth overnight.
Also consider brushing after lunch as well. As if you brush at seven in the morning and go to bed at 10 or 11 at night, you’ve got 15 or 16 hours of eating for bacteria to build up.
It is not recommended to brush more than three times a day, as brushing too often may damage your gums.
How should you brush your teeth?
There are various ways to brush your teeth properly, such as the Modified Bass Brushing method, the Rolling Stroke method, the Charter’s method, the Modified Stillman’s method and the Fone’s method.
The Modified Bass Brushing technique is useful for for all types of dental conditions and is among the most popular for adults.
Here are the steps for brushing teeth properly using the Modified Bass Brushing technique
1. Hold your toothbrush sideways against your teeth with some of the bristles touching your gums.
2. Tilt the brush so that the bristles are pointing at a 45 degree angle to your gumline.
3. Move the brush back and forth, using short strokes. The tips of the bristles should stay in one place, but the head of the brush should wiggle back and forth. You also can make tiny circles with the brush. This allows the bristles to slide gently under the gum. Do this for about 20 strokes or 20 circles. In healthy gums, this type of brushing should cause no pain. If it hurts, brush more gently.
4. Roll or flick the brush so that the bristles move out from under the gum toward the biting edge of the tooth. This helps move the plaque out from under the gum line.
5. Repeat for every tooth, on both the outsides and insides.
On the insides of your front teeth, it can be hard to hold the brush sideways. So hold it vertically instead. Use the same gentle back-and-forth or circular brushing action. Finish with a roll or flick of the brush toward the biting edge.
6. Clean the biting or chewing surfaces of your teeth. Hold the brush so that the bristles are straight down on these surfaces. Gently move the brush back and forth or in tiny circles to clean the entire surface. Move to a new tooth or area until the surfaces of all your teeth are cleaned.
7. Rinse with water.
8. You can clear even more bacteria out of your mouth and freshen your breath by brushing your tongue. Brush firmly but gently from back to front. Do not go so far back in your mouth that you gag. Rinse again.
Brush lightly. Brushing too hard can wear away your gums and tooth surface. Receding gums, where the gums move away from the teeth, are often a sign of too much scrubbing. Plaque attaches to teeth like honey to a spoon. A light brushing will remove plaque, but once it has hardened into tartar (calculus) brushing can’t remove it. If you, like me, brush too hard, hold your toothbrush the same way that you hold a pen. This encourages a lighter stroke.
Have a standard routine for brushing. Try to brush your teeth in the same order every day. This helps you cover every area of your mouth. If you do this routinely, it will become second nature. For example, you can brush the outer sides of your teeth from left to right across the top, then move to the inside and brush right to left. Then brush your biting and chewing surfaces, too, from left to right. Repeat the pattern for your lower teeth.
How long should you brush your teeth?
Brush for at least two minutes. Set a timer if you have to, but don’t skimp on your brushing time. Two minutes is the minimum time you need to clean all of your teeth. Many people brush for the length of a song on the radio. That acts as a good reminder to brush each tooth thoroughly.
What sort of toothbrush should you use?
Use a small to medium size toothbrush with soft to medium multi-tufted, round-ended bristles. Don’t use a hard brush as the harder the brush, the greater the risk of harming your gums. The head of the toothbrush should be small enough to reach into all parts of your mouth, especially the back of your mouth which can be difficult to reach.
Manual, electric or power-assisted toothbrushes are all fine. Electric or power-assisted toothbrushes are especially useful for those, like me, who don’t always use proper brushing techniques. They also are a good choice for people with physical limitations that make brushing difficult. If you use an electric or powered assisted toothbrush, use it for at least two minutes, and don’t press too hard.
The type of brush you use isn’t nearly as important as brushing the right way and doing it at least twice a day. Any brush approved by the dental association in your country, for example the British Dental Association (BDA) or the American Dental Association (ADA), should be good, but you have to know how to use it.
When should you change your toothbrush?
Throw away your old toothbrush after three months or when the bristles start to flare, if that is earlier. If the bristles on your toothbrush flare much earlier than every three months, you may be brushing too hard. Try easing up.
So today’s takeaway health tip is review how you are brushing your teeth against what dental experts say and make any necessary changes for the good of your teeth, gums and heart.
In my next post in this series I will explore what dental experts say about the next most important thing you can do for good oral health, cleaning between your teeth, commonly known as flossing.