The American Dental Association has recently made great strides in educating parents about childhood cavities. Because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 42% of children have cavities in their baby teeth, the need to educate parents on proper oral hygiene is critical to instilling proper oral hygiene habits. Unfortunately, children aren’t the only ones suffering from dental problems. The American Dental Hygienist Association estimate that up to 75% of adults suffer from gum disease and may not even realize it (yet). Because many dental problems can be traced back to improper care, it is important to review the proper steps for effectively brushing your teeth.
Start with the right tools
The basics of brushing start with using the right brush and the right toothpaste. When choosing a new toothbrush, consider the following:
- Bristles: Although there many types of bristles available, most dentists recommend a soft-bristled brush as those are much gentler on the gums.
- Head size: It may be tempting to get the larger head to cover more area at once, but a smaller head can reach into the smaller areas, particularly the teeth furthest back.
- Powered or non-powered toothbrush: A powered brush is a smart choice especially for those with compromised dexterity.
Regardless of which toothbrush you select, it is important to replace your toothbrush often: every three months or when the bristles start to show wear, whichever comes first. Some toothbrushes even have colored indicators that fade away when the brush is worn out. Also, consider tossing your toothbrush after a cold to prevent re-contaminating yourself.
What kind of toothpaste should I use?
Shopping for toothpaste can be overwhelming, but know that there are certain formulas for certain needs including gingivitis, plaque and tartar control, and sensitivity. If you are unsure which paste is best for you, your dentist can suggest one for you. However, regardless of what your specific dental needs are, you should choose a toothpaste with fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. Children, however, will need a training toothpaste, which usually does not have fluoride.
How to brush your teeth properly
Once you have the right brush with the correct toothpaste for your needs, you can start to brush your teeth. The first rule, and usually the most often broken rule, is the duration of brushing. Proper brushing should take at least two full minutes.
- Apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to your brush.
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45° angle and brush the outer surface of each tooth by moving the brush in a gentle circular motion. Avoid using excessive pressure and scrubbing back and forth too roughly as the delicate gums can be easily irritated.
- Repeat for the inside surface as well.
- Next, brush the chewing surfaces (tops) of your teeth. It is okay to “scrub” this section as you are not causing friction on the gums during this part.
- End by brushing your tongue. Bacteria can build up in the grooves of your tongue, which contributes to bad breath.
Follow these steps twice each day, once in the morning and once before bed.