Everyone assumes they know the basics of personal dental hygiene. But as the keepers of your dental health, we have a vested interest in the health or your mouth. So let’s take just a minute and revisit these two foundations of good oral care — brushing and flossing.
Spending the time to brush your teeth the right way now can save you a lot of time sitting in a dentist’s chair later. But many people simply rush through a mediocre job. Here’s how to brush the right way.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush — toothbrushes with firmer bristles will damage your gums and make them recede. They can also damage the tooth enamel. Apply a small amount of flouride-infused toothpaste and make circular motions from the back to the front of the upper and lower jaws. Those circular motions should overlap so that every exposed portion of each tooth is hit by the brush. Plus, this pattern also gently forces out food debris and plaque from just under the gumline. Hit the inside of your teeth, the molar tops, the outside, and the gumline. And don’t forget the roof of your mouth and your tongue.
How long? Brush for two full minutes. This time passes more quickly if you divide your mouth into quarters, i.e. the upper right, and spend 30 seconds on each quarter.
Three times a day is the right amount, usually when you wake up, sometime during the day, and before you go to bed. Brushing more than that can wear down your enamel. And don’t have a firm hand. Removing plaque and food debris doesn’t take excessive force.
When you’re finished rinse your mouth and your toothbrush. Then store your toothbrush where it can air dry before your next brushing.
Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. You can tell it’s time if the bristles start to lose their normal flexibility or if they start to fan out.
Dental floss dislodges food particles trapped between the teeth and under the gums, places your toothbrush can’t reach. If left unchecked, this food debris will attract bacteria, the culprit behind cavities, bad breath, and gum disease.
Waxed or unwaxed makes no difference, although waxed floss is generally easier to slip between the teeth. Flavoring doesn’t add calories or affect floss performance. You can also choose between ribbon or tape and regular floss. There are also floss picks — disposable, pre-threaded floss-holders that make it easy to reach into the back corners of your mouth.
To floss properly, take 18 inches of floss and wrap around either your first or middle finger on each hand, leaving a two-inch span to insert in between your teeth. Start with the back of the farthest tooth back in your mouth, then floss into every gap between your teeth on both the upper and lower teeth, hitting both sides of the teeth forming the gap and going just below the gumline. Should take around a minute.
You may occasionally get a little bit of blood when you floss, especially if you haven’t flossed for a few days. That’s normal and will lessen as you return to regular flossing.
Flossing is just as important as brushing, so be sure to do it at least once a day at bedtime (and another time during the day, if you can fit it in).