Toothbrushing seems like a no-brainer, but the fact of the matter is many of us are doing it wrong. We are choosing the wrong type of brush, we aren’t brushing long enough, we are storing it incorrectly, and we aren’t changing it as often as we should. If the device we are using to clean our mouths isn’t really clean itself, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
Toothbrushing is a form of oral hygiene in which a person cleans bacteria from their teeth. When done properly, such removal of bacteria can reduce the incidence of cavities, gum disease and many other life altering ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Toothbrushing is a wonderful cleansing technique, when done with the right brush at the right time.
Let’s just take a stroll down the evolution of toothbrushing. For Americans, toothbrushing dates back to the late 19th century when Army soldiers brought such habits home after World War II. The first American electric toothbrush came around in the 1960s. Since then, Americans have been inundated with brushes claiming to whiten and be as effective as flossing. So how do you choose the right toothbrush for you? And is there a such thing as brushing too much?
Best times to brush: in the morning and before bed. Your mouth becomes drier at nighttime due to reduced bodily functions. If bacteria is left on your teeth all night there isn’t as much saliva present to wash it away. Brushing in the morning clears any residue of bad breath that may have been caused from your drier mouth.
Worst time to brush: after an acidic meal. Brushing directly after acid exposure can cause more damage to your teeth. Instead, wait 30 minutes before brushing, giving saliva a chance to remineralize the teeth.
Best method for brushing: small circles with light pressure. Be sure to start at the gum line, work your way to the biting surface, and then to the back side of your teeth.
Worst method for brushing: side-to-side with heavy force. Brushing from side-to-side causes you to miss spots, plus long horizontal strokes can lead to abrasions. Too much pressure exerted on your teeth can cause tooth erosion and gum recession. If you have noticed notches on your teeth at the gumline or root exposure, you are brushing with too much force. Try holding your toothbrush with two fingers and your thumb; this will give you an idea of how light the force should be when brushing.
Best type of toothbrush: one that you’ll use! The preference is soft bristles, possibly ultra-soft if you have sensitive teeth. Make sure the handle of the brush is comfortable in your hands and allows you to manuever it well. Electric brushes spin at a rate much faster than you could ever duplicate with your hand. In return more plaque can be removed, therefore reducing surface stains (this is what companies are referring to when they say their product whitens).
Worst type of toothbrush: medium and hard brushes. Medium and hard bristles are too abrasive over time and can damage teeth. Those brushes are best made for cleaning tile grout and your oven.
How long to brush: two minutes. Electric brushes typically run for 2 minutes, beeping every 30 seconds to remind you to rotate to another area of your mouth. For children, sand timers are helpful. We often tell our patients to brush the entire commercial break of a TV show
When to change your brush: every 3 months, whether it be a manual or electric brush. If you are sick with the cold or flu, be sure to change your brush once you get better. Bacteria can harbor in the brush, re-exposing you to the germs you just finished fighting.
Other brushing tips:
–keep your toothbrush at least 6 feet away from the toilet. When flushing airborne particles can travel up to six feet.
–do not store your tooth brush wet. If the brush stays moist bacteria will grow. Shake your brush out and store without a protective cap.
–be sure to brush all surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue. Brushing is best followed up by rinsing with a mouthwash. Mouthwash collects bacteria present on areas of your mouth that aren’t brushed, such as your cheek, palate, etc.
Tip of the Month: Americans spend over $850 million a year on toothbrushes. Let us help you cut down on the cost by providing two free toothbrushes a year with your routine dental cleanings!