You read that headline correctly: what you don’t know about brushing your teeth may be undoing any good your dental hygiene schedule has done. At worst, it could begin causing noticeable ongoing harm over a long enough span.
Oasis Dental professionals typically aren’t the ones to advocate scare tactics where it concerns oral care. Brushing is just an ingrained enough daily habit that many give little thought to just what the habitual actions really accomplish. Bad habits carried out over a lifetime – even in the name of a certain kind of common sense – can quietly erode an otherwise healthy mouth and adults wondering what went wrong after doing everything right that we’re all “supposed” to do.
Let’s change a few things up today. It could make dedicated toothbrushing the sort of effective preventative-care ritual dentists everywhere mean it to be.
Brush infrequently, and even the best toothbrush and toothpaste around won’t keep pace with plaque buildup and cavities. As it turns out, too much of a good thing proves nearly as damning.
WebMD recommends brushing thoroughly three times daily – just enough for proper care after breakfast, lunch and dinner, just as we’re all taught growing up. Though many adults have adopted a routine of five or six smaller meals daily, brushing incessantly more often than recommended won’t develop an immaculately clean mouth. As a matter of fact, the result is a bit more akin to excessively scrubbing a table or countertop: eventually, all that brushing can erode tooth enamel and leave gums tender and damaged.
Just the same, give your brush ample time to do its work. Two to four minutes per brushing gives you time to divide your mouth into four equal sections that each get 30 to 60 seconds of attention – a six to twelve minuntes of steady cleaning daily. Falling short of that leaves some parts of the mouth under-cleaned or even entirely untouched. Going too long only builds up plaque and tears into the gums a little bit at a time.
The American Dental Association Seal of Approval passes many consumers’ muster when choosing a toothbrush. Go the extra mile and ask your dentist just which brush suits your mouth’s unique shape.
Overly stiff bristles won’t necessarily dig into plaque particularly deeply. On the other hand, they can damage gums over six daily minutes of brushing. You shouldn’t need to stretch your mouth overly wide for the brush to reach far enough back into your mouth. Look for a toothbrush with a smaller head and soft bristles if you do find yourself straining to properly clean your furthest-back teeth and seek a bigger head if you practically need to fit your hand into your mouth to reach those same back rows. Just as importantly, replace your toothbrush – or your electric toothbrush’s head – every 3-4 months.
Choosing an electric or manual brush comes down to a personal preference, but electric brushes are often more comfortable for arthritis sufferers and those with shoulder or arm issues, in addition to providing unique scrubbing motions. As for your toothpaste, be wary of abrasive active ingredients, particles that can erode tooth structures, and their potential effects on sensitive teeth. Most dentists say that a simple fluoride formula is perfectly suitable for fighting plaque and cavities.
We wouldn’t go so far as to say that there’s exactly a “fine art” to brushing one’s teeth, but a few mindful considerations will definitely clear plaque extra-thoroughly without damaging the enamel and gums.
Remember, for as stubborn as plaque and other stains can be, this isn’t a coffee table you’re cleaning; your teeth are living parts of your body meant to last you a lifetime.
Instead of wide, side-to-side sweeping strokes, your brush should make contact with your teeth and gums at a 45-degree angle in short, vertical motions. Start brushing a different section of your mouth each time, so as not to neglect any areas, and thoroughly scrub your tongue, back molars and both inner and outer surfaces equally. This way, plaque won’t have time to settle in and do extensive damage.
This is your mother calling: keep some things far from your mouth, whether you know where they’ve been or not.
You’ve been told since you were old enough to hold a toothbrush to keep sweets and sodas to a minimum. We’d like to extend that caution just an inch or two: sugared sodas and energy drinks wreak enough havoc upon enamel, but studies conducted as recently as 2013 have demonstrated that diet soft drinks can erode teeth on a level rivaling the decay seen in crack-cocaine and methamphetamine users.
Meanwhile, beware even your healthier beverage choices. Coffee, apple juice and orange juice all contain potent acids that can eat into and soften teeth.
Give your mouth a half-hour rest before brushing after partaking of sour foods. The same substances that provide that appealing flavor can weaken your teeth. Waiting lets your saliva rehabilitate the enamel before your bristles go to work.
Last, but not least, care for your brush. Rinsing thoroughly after each brushing not only clears out the germs from your mouth and teeth that it just scrubbed away, it also prevents leftover toothpaste from hardening the bristles. Just rinse it out and let it air-dry.
However, place it dry in a holder after it dries (locking it away in a case while moist invites bacteria). Most of us brush in the bathroom, and there’s just no telling how many different germs, varieties of bacteria and other things you’d probably rather not think about are floating around looking for a damp place to land.