For most people, brushing and flossing is just a normal part of their everyday routine and something that simply must be done. However, many people are surprised to learn that they’re not doing it properly. For instance, proper brushing takes at least two minutes to complete, and most people don’t brush for nearly that long. If you stop and think about how you brush and floss, you may realize that you don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the whole oral hygiene routine. To reap all the benefits of brushing and flossing, it’s important to make sure you’re adopting the right techniques to maximize your oral health.
Brushing and Flossing Tips
Despite other suggestions to the contrary, the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Dental Association do recommend flossing, and many dentists confirm that patients who brush and floss regularly have healthier gums and keep their teeth longer.
Here are four easy steps to follow that will help you take great care of your smile.
- Brush your teeth after every meal and before bedtime with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Spend at least two minutes brushing each time
- Floss every day, before heading off to bed.
- Visit your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings.
- Keep your breath fresh by brushing your tongue.
Regardless of your methods, it is important to ensure that bacteria and plaque do not flourish in your mouth, as these lead to decay, gum disease, and other oral health concerns. Keep your mouth clean and free of bacteria with a combination of brushing, flossing, and mouthwash, and visit your dentist regularly for checkups.
Brushing for Oral Health
Oral health begins with clean teeth. Keeping the area where your teeth meet your gums clean can prevent gum disease, while keeping your tooth surfaces clean can help you stave off cavities and gum disease.
Most experts recommend that you brush your teeth twice per day — morning and evening. It is ideal to brush your teeth after you have eaten to clear away food particles and debris that can lead to tooth decay. With lunch eaten at work and school, however, it may be difficult or inconvenient to try to squeeze in a third daily brushing after that meal. We recommend rinsing with water in lieu of brushing — rinsing helps remove sugars and particles. Try to get in the habit of rinsing even after you eat a snack or a sugary drink or acidic beverage. Of course, the best thing to do is to try to limit your diet when it comes to those types of beverages — it’s better for your teeth.
Consider these brushing basics:
Brush your teeth twice a day. When you brush, don't rush. Take about two minutes to do a thorough job. Don't brush right after eating, especially if you had something acidic such as grapefruit or soda it can damage your enamel. Don't forget to clean your tongue, which harbors bacteria, with a toothbrush or tongue scraper.
Use the proper equipment. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, which can reduce plaque and gingivitis (a mild form of gum disease) more than does manual brushing. These devices are also helpful if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush effectively.
Practice good technique. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle — aiming the bristles toward the area where your tooth meets your gum. Gently brush with circular short back-and-forth motions. Brushing too hard or with hard bristles can hurt your gums.
Keep your equipment clean. Always rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air-dry until using it again. Try to keep it separate from other toothbrushes in the same holder to prevent cross-contamination. Don't routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast.
Know when to replace your toothbrush. Invest in a new toothbrush or a replacement head for your electric or battery-operated toothbrush every three months — or sooner if the bristles flay or become irregular.
Flossing for Oral Health
You should floss every day, ideally before you brush your teeth. Flossing helps combat the buildup of plaque on your teeth, which could lead to tartar, cavities, and gum disease. Flossing also helps promote fresher breath.
You can't reach the bacteria in the tight spaces between your teeth and under the gum line with a toothbrush. That's why daily flossing is important. When you floss:
Don't skimp. Break off about 18 inches (46 centimeters) of dental floss. Wind most of the floss around the middle finger on one hand, and the rest around the middle finger on the other hand. Grip the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
Be gentle. Guide the floss between your teeth using a rubbing motion. Don't snap the floss into your gums. When the floss reaches your gum line, curve it against one tooth, making a c shape.
Take it one tooth at a time. Slide the floss into the space between your gum and tooth. Use the floss to gently rub the side of the tooth in an up-and-down motion. Unwind fresh floss as you progress to the rest of your teeth.
Keep it up. If you find it hard to handle floss, use an interdental cleaner, such as a dental pick, pre-threaded flosser, tiny brushes that reach between teeth, a water flosser, or wooden or silicone wedge plaque remover.
Traditional toothbrush or an electric toothbrush – Which is right for you?
The main difference between a manual toothbrush and an electric toothbrush is whether you — or the toothbrush — are doing most of the work. Manual toothbrushes are fixed and do not move on their own — they’re purely people powered. Electric toothbrushes have automated parts that can sweep over teeth in a variety of motions. They clean teeth by vibrating, oscillating, moving side-to-side or using sonic technology, which moves the toothbrush heads significantly faster.
Some people like the fact that electric toothbrushes give their wrist a break. Others aren’t too keen on feeling the sensation of independent movement on their teeth and gums.
Many parents choose electric toothbrushes to help keep their kids interested and engaged in the brushing process. And a recent study showed that these brushes keep adult brushers focused, as well — which could mean a more thorough cleaning each time. Also, people with arthritis in their hands or arms, or who have other issues with dexterity, may appreciate the ease of electric toothbrushes.