Using the proper technique when brushing your teeth is essential for cleaning teeth and gums effectively. Yet many patients are unaware of what exactly the “proper methods” are. Correct brushing requires a little patience and a little more time than you might think. It’s just not enough to slap on the toothpaste and scrub away in a haphazard and random fashion. You can easily miss whole areas of your mouth and actually do some damage at the same time. Here are some helpful toothbrushing tips to get the job done properly.
The Average Person Brushes
2 minutes a day
The Average Person Should Brush
6 minutes a day
Select a soft-bristled toothbrush in a size and shape that will fit your mouth comfortably. With regular use, toothbrushes generally wear out in about three or four months. If you have a cold replace or wash your toothbrush in the dishwasher.
When you brush keep in mind three main goals:
- Stop or Prevent Decay
- Prevent Gum Disease
- Maintain Fresh Breath
- Starting with the back chewing surfaces of the upper teeth, continue and brush all the biting surfaces. You don’t need to spend a lot of time here, but thoroughly brush all biting surfaces with a gentle back and forth motion. The biting surface anatomy has cracks and grooves, which are the most cavity prone surfaces of you mouth. For this reason the fluoride in the toothpaste should be allowed to soak into these surfaces for the longest time period.
- Then, in a systematic fashion, place the bristles along the gumline at a 45° angle. Bristles should contact both the tooth surface and the gumline at the same time. Remember to look or feel with your finger, since the gum line may be much higher or lower over different teeth.
- Maintain a 45° angle with bristles contacting the tooth surface and gumline. In a tooth-wide path, gently brush using a back and forth rolling motion. Avoid the quick sawing back and forth strokes. Long term the sawing type of motion is likely could cause abrasion of tooth structure. Don’t forget to brush both the inner and outer surfaces of all teeth. And the back surface of the tooth in an open space.
Areas that commonly missed or need more attention:
- The tongue side tooth gum junction of the lower teeth
- Cheek side tooth gum junction of the upper right & left (towards the back)
- Tilt the brush vertically at more of an angle behind the front teeth for both upper and lower teeth. Make several up and down strokes using the front half “toe” (the top part) or “heal” (bottom part) to clean the inside surface. You should also try to approach this area from the right or left and use the circular rolling motion to clean this area.
Brush the tongue from back to front to remove odor-producing bacteria. We recommend a tongue brush.
Tongue brushing Tips:
There’s a trick to scraping without gagging. Force yourself to exhale as you scrape.
Besides brushing twice a day, it’s important to clean teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner. This helps remove plaque and particles from between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach.
Special brushing notes for patients with a history of gum or bone recession.
If you have spaces between your teeth you will need to additionally brush these areas using the following directions.
This area is best maintained with a electric tooth brush like “Rotodent” or the like. But if you have not invested in this type of brush try the following brushing technique.
Sweep the toothbrush into the interdental (between teeth) area and rotate the toothbrush towards the chewing surface as to avoid stabbing the brush bristles into the gum tissue.
Most people consider flossing to be a chore: time-consuming, messy, frustrating, and boring. In fact, two out of three adults do not floss despite knowing its benefits.
Brushing your teeth twice a day is important, but there are places between your teeth that trap bits of food and plaque, a sticky film of decay-causing bacteria. It’s difficult, often impossible, for toothbrush bristles to do a good job cleaning these usually tight spaces between teeth. Dental floss is an “interdental cleaner” that can help keep these tooth surfaces clean and helps reduce the likelihood of gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay.
Think about it this way, not flossing is like taking a shower and not washing 30% of your body.
The key is to make flossing easier and then you’ll do it more often.
- Break off about 18 inches of floss. Wind most of it around one middle finger. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger on the other hand. This finger takes up the floss as it is used.
- Pinch the floss between your thumbs and index fingers and leave about one inch to work with.
- Guide the floss between your teeth, using a gentle rubbing motion. To avoid injuring your gums, never snap the floss between the teeth.
- When the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a “C” shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
- Hold the floss tightly against the side of one of your teeth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum using an up-and down-back and forth rubbing motion. Then move the floss to the other tooth surface move under the gum tissues and repeat the preceding technique.
- Repeat this method on the remaining teeth. And don’t forget to floss the back of the last tooth. Rinse thoroughly to remove loosened plaque and debris.
If you have difficulty handling floss, you may find it helpful to use a floss holder or other interdental cleaners, which include special picks, sticks or narrow brushes that reach between teeth.
If you still encounter flossing difficulties, let us know. We’re here to help.
Make flossing more accessible. Keep rolls in places like your purse, your desk, TV room, and bedroom. Floss while you’re watching TV, working at your desk, reading, and so on.
If flossing after each meal is not realistic, floss before bed. When you sleep, plaque bacteria have more of a chance to develop.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend tons of time flossing. A good flossing only takes two or three minutes.
Reward yourself. For example, set a goal to floss (perhaps only a few teeth to start with) every day for two weeks, then go indulge in that special something you’ve had your eye on. Then, set a new goal!
What Type of Tooth Paste?
It used to be easy to choose toothpaste. Nowadays, there are so many kinds and brands that it can be confusing and difficult to decide which toothpaste is best suited for your smile. Here’s a helpful guide offering descriptions of different toothpastes and how they work:
Tartar Control – These help prevent tartar (the hardened plaque that can lead to gum disease) from building up on teeth, and may even reduce it by as much as 36%. It is important to note that these toothpastes only remove tartar above the gumline and only a professional dental cleaning can remove it below the gumline.
Baking Soda – With its mild abrasive action, baking soda helps to remove stains from teeth. These pastes don’t have any proven effect on periodontal disease, but because you may like the taste and feel of this kind of toothpaste, you might brush more often. Be careful though as excessive use may irritate your gums.
Desensitizing – These products help decrease your tooth sensitivity to hot or cold drinks and food. They work by providing extra protection on exposed root surfaces of your teeth. It will take about four to six weeks of regular use before you notice any sensitivity improvement. You should have your sensitivity checked by us first to be sure it is not the result of a more serious problem.
Antibacterial – These brands control mild superficial inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) by reducing levels of bacterial plaque. They won’t reverse more severe gum disease.
Whiteners – Whitening toothpastes can be abrasive on tooth enamel so do not use them exclusively. If you do want your teeth whitened, talk to us. These pastes really aren’t strong enough to make a difference, but are good for maintaining white teeth after you have already whitened.
Regardless of which toothpaste you choose, you still need to brush at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush. It is also important to floss once a day, as even the best toothbrush and toothpaste can’t remove plaque trapped between teeth.
When to Change Your Toothbrush
The American Dental Association recommends that you replace your toothbrush approximately every three to four months.
Note From Dr L
Changing your toothbrush is not as important knowing how to properly use it, and using common sense to keep it clean and dry.
It’s also more important that you know exactly how to properly brush your teeth & when to brush. Surprisingly most new patients are 100% certain they know how to brush. But when handed a toothbrush and asked to show us, its no longer a surprise to us, they do it wrong. Regarding gum disease prevention and preventing bad breath, it’s a fact 50% is prevented in our office and 50% is battled at home. We review and teach all of our patient’s proper home care.
- Sanitized your toothbrush in the dishwasher after colds or at least every 1-3 months as needed.
- You should not damage bristles of the toothbrush unless your brushing too hard. When you brush your teeth and gums, use a circular messaging motion, and not a back and forth scrubbing motion. So it you are brushing correctly the bristles will not get damaged.
- Rinse after use and position your toothbrush with the bristles up so they stay dry
- Don’t use other people toothbrush and don’t store them together
- If you travel do not use a closed container to store your brush. Just loosely toss it into Dopp Kit /Toiletry bag. Leave your Dopp bag open when you reach your final destination.
If you follow the above recommendation, you can change your toothbrush every 3-4 months if you want, but every 6-months is fine.
Here’s a convenient thought, since everyone should have their teeth cleaned and checked every six months. And since we give you a free toothbrush to our patients at 6-month periodic cleanings and checkups. Change your toothbrush every six months.
When to Brush
Ideally you should brush your teeth after every snack or meal. Especially sugary snacks.
In any case, you should teeth at least two times per day.
- In the morning after you eat
- In the evening before your go to bed.
Nighttime brushing is the most important time of the day to brush. You need to remove surgery foods from your teeth before a long nights sleep. Most people breath with their mouth open at night. Mouth breathing dries up saliva. Saliva neutralizes acids caused by the breakdown of sugar. Saliva also mineralizes tooth structure to keep it strong and resilient.
Sugar + Dry mouth = CAVITITES & BAD BREATH
Fresh Breath Treatment
Blame Bad Breath on Your Mouth
Experts say at least 90% of all bad breath originates in the mouth. Less than 5% of bad breath is due to gastric reflux from foods in your stomach.
Basic dental hygiene that includes brushing and flossing is important, but the debris that collects between your teeth isn’t always the main source of bad breath odor. It may come from the back of your tongue, and the culprit is compounds that smell sulfur-like, which are the by-products that occur when anaerobic bacteria break down food. These bacteria survive better in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic or oxygen-phobic).
These bacteria play a role in digestion, and as long as your mouth has plenty of oxygen-rich saliva, they do their job without offending others.
How to Combat Bad Breath
- Firstly and Most Importantly -Eliminate all dental disease i.e. decay, leaky dental restorations, gum disease, oral infections, spaces between teeth which trap food, etc. You need to remove any non-cleansable crevices, holes, or cracks where this bacterium can hide and grow.
- Brush and floss. Getting rid of any body odor begins with good hygiene. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, brushing your tongue, and flossing.
- Regular visits to our office. We will remove the hardened accumulation of tarter & plaque which is formed by bad breath causing bacteria. At our office we will mechanically remove these gram-negative bacteria and flush out all periodontal pockets to stop these bacteria from entering into your body. Additionally, we will review, teach, and sets goals to help you stay focused on your oral health and fresh breath.
- Tongue hygiene is an important factor in eliminating bad breath, since some people have deep fissures and grooves in the tongue where food and plaque get trapped. Brushing the tongue with most brands of toothpaste dries the mouth because they contain sodium lauryl-sulfate, a chemical also used in shampoos to create foaming action. Use a tongue scraper. Physically remove the bacteria and plaque.
- Increase oral awareness of self-cleansing oral hygiene. This is accomplished via periodic movement of your tongue and cheeks over all tooth surfaces. This self-grooming oral hygiene should occur especially after meals or snacks.
- Sugarless gum chewing after meals.
- Dentures should be removed at night and thoroughly cleaned.
- Moisturize mouth and nasal passages. Chewing sugarless gum or snacking on an apple will promote saliva production. Anytime you put food in your mouth, there’s a reflex to produce saliva. In the winter, run a humidifier and use a saline solution, such as Ocean nasal spray, to keep nasal passages moist.
- Drink or increase water consumption. This will increase the oxygen in your saliva and create an environment, which will help to eliminate the bad breath causing anaerobic bacteria (anaerobic means: Bacteria that doesn’t like oxygen).
- Eliminate dry mouth and the causes of dry mouth. Having a dry mouth decreases the amount of oxygen in your mouth and, therefore, creates a favorable environment for anaerobic bacteria. Causes of dry mouth include:
- Mouth breathing due to allergies which occlude the nasal passage
- Medical condition, such as diabetes or a cold
- Side effect of a number of medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and long-term use of antibiotics.
What to Do if the Problem Persists
If bad breath persists, call our office, we will do a dental exam and review your medical/dental history. The cause could be gum (periodontal) disease or another dental disease from a draining oral infection or even undetected tooth decay. Once all of the common causes of bad breath have been eliminated virtually all cases of bad breath are corrected. In some situations, Dr. Landers will give patients oxygen rich solutions intra- orally to increase oxygen in the oral environment.
Mouth breathing is another condition that may require special treatment. Mouth breathers can wake up with horrible breath, and their gums can become inflamed. Treatment involves wearing a plastic guard containing fluoride at night and scraping the tongue before bed.
Dr. Landers will refer you to your doctor if the source of your bad breath is somewhere other than your mouth.
What about Onions and Garlic?
Eat onions and garlic and you’ll pay. Experts say there’s not much you can do about the odor that comes from these sulfur-producing foods. Through digestion, the odor is absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the lungs, where it’s pumped out as “dragon breath”.
Drinking Tea May Ward Off Bad Breath
Some beverages, especially alcoholic ones, can give you bad breath, but a cup of green or black tea may freshen it. Tea contains antioxidants called “polyphenols,” which, in a laboratory study, inhibited growth of bacteria that causes bad breath and reduced sulfur compounds by 30%. The study was reported at the 2003 annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology by Christine Wu, professor of Periodontics and Associate Dean for research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. She notes that the study conducted in labs rather than in people’s mouths doesn’t prove tea sweetens bad breath. But it’s a promising line of research she says she hopes to continue.
10- Important Dry Mouth Tips & Treatments
- 1. Breath through your nose. If you breathe through your mouth during the day or at night you can experience breakdown as a result of dry mouth. Mouth breathing causes a dry oral environment, which in turn increases the chances you will develop cavities, gum disease, and bad breathe.
- 2. Allergies & obstructed nasal passages forces people to breathe through their mouth and will cause dry mouth.
- 3. If you commonly breathe through you mouth while running or during exercise, this will cause dry mouth. Make sure to brush or use a Fluoride rinse after mouth breathing during exercise.
- 4. Drink an adequate amount of water. If your body is dehydrated, your mouth can also get dry.
- 5. Caffeine can cause dry mouth. Drink water during and after coffee.
- 6. Avoid habitual use of mouthwashes with alcohol. Alcohol dries your saliva.
- 7. Smoking causes many oral diseases, oral cancer, increases dry mouth, and decrease the ability of your mouth to heal.
- 8. Chew sugarless gum after sugary snacks or meals will increase saliva flow and neutralize acids that cause cavities. If you already have dry mouth it’s a bad idea to deplete saliva before eating.
- 9. Side effects of some prescription medications cause dry mouth.
- 10. If you can’t control your dry mouth see a good preventative dentist at least every four mouth.. and considering using an over-the-counter dry mouth rinse, or Fluoride regimen as recommended by a dentist.
*Note From Dr L
At our office we try our best to educate and recommend preventative treatments to all of our patients. Patients with normal saliva flow can go decades without cavities or a need to change or up date fillings etc. People can abruptly develop dry mouth and we’ve seen severe problems develop in as little as 2-4 mouths. I. e. at one check-up visit our patients are fine, four months later they have several cavities. If you have dry mouth don’t try to manage it by your self. Find a qualified preventive dentist who will help you with preventative recommendations.
Fluoride & Dry Mouth Treatment
Swish with any of these over-the-counter rinses for thirty seconds after normal brushing and flossing to help kill harmful bacteria that can cause cavities. Ideally you would brush & floss before you use your Fluoride rinse but you can still rinse even if you don’t brush and floss. Best time to use it is before you go to bed.
- Listerine Total Care
- Listerine Total Care Zero (non-alcohol)
- Act with Fluoride
Prevident safely uses a prescription strength amount of Fluoride to reduce cavity production and neutralize the bacteria in your mouth. It is to be used at least one time a day in place of your normal toothpaste. Best time to use a Fluoride rinse is before going to bed. A key factor with this toothpaste is that you want to spit out as much as possible but DO NOT rinse, eat, or drink for at least 20 minutes after brushing. Your dental care provider will help determine which toothpaste is best suited for you based on your oral health.
- Prevident Booster Plus- toothpaste
- Prevident Sensitive- toothpaste
- Prevident Dry Mouth- toothpaste
- Prevident Enamel Protect- toothpaste
At Home Trays/Ge
Custom fluoride trays may be prescribed to you if your dental care provider feels you are at high risk for developing dental caries. A custom mold is taken of your teeth and soft thermoplastic trays are made. You will then use these trays at home once a day for 5 minutes. It is important to note that you should not rinse, eat, or drink after using your fluoride trays so we recommend using them at night.ls:
- Custom Fluoride Tray
- Denti-care Pro-Gel- unflavored
- Denti-care Pro-Gel- unflavored
- MI Paste
Dry Mouth Treatments
Both of these over-the-counter brands have a variety of products that help decrease dry mouth symptoms. There is no permanent solution for treating dry mouth but these aids have been proven effective.
- Biotiene- rinse/toothpaste/gel/spray
- Act for Dry mouth- rinse/toothpaste/gel/lozenges/gum
- In some sever cases of dry mouth your dental professional may prescribe you a medication that will stimulate saliva.