Dental Hygiene- Brush and floss tips
Here are a few general pointers about brushing:
- Brush at least twice a day — Many oral-health-care professionals recommend brushing just before going to bed. When you sleep, saliva decreases, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to bacterial acids. Teeth should also be brushed in the morning, either before or after breakfast, depending on your schedule. After breakfast is ideal so food particles are removed. But if you eat in your car, at work or skip breakfast entirely, make sure you brush first thing in the morning to get rid of the plaque that built up overnight.
Brush no more than three times a day — Brushing after lunch will give you a good mid-day cleaning. Remember, though, that brushing too often can cause gums to recede over time.
Brush lightly — Brushing too hard can cause gums to recede. Plaque attaches to teeth rather like jam sticks to a wooden spoon. It can’t be totally removed by rinsing, but just a light brushing will do the trick. Once plaque has hardened into calculus (tartar), brushing can’t remove it, so brushing harder won’t help. Try holding your toothbrush the same way you hold a pen. This encourages a lighter stroke.
Brush for at least two minutes — Set a timer if you have to, but don’t skimp on brushing time. Longer is fine, but two minutes is the minimum time needed to adequately clean all your teeth. Many people brush for the length of a song on the radio. That acts as a good reminder to brush each tooth thoroughly.
Have a standard routine for brushing — Try to brush your teeth in the same order every day. Some oral health-care professionals feel that this helps patients remember to brush all areas of their mouths. If you do this routinely, it eventually will become second nature. For example, brush the outer sides of your teeth from left to right across the top then move to the inside and brush rights to left. Repeat the pattern for your lower teeth.
Always use a toothbrush with “soft” or “extra soft” bristles — The harder the brush, the greater the risk of harming gum tissue.
Change your toothbrush regularly — As soon as the bristles begin to splay, the toothbrush loses its ability to clean properly. Throw away your old toothbrush after three months or when the bristles flare, whichever comes first. If you find your bristles flaring much sooner than three months, you may be brushing too hard. Try easing up.
Choose a brush that has a seal of approval by the American Dental Association — Oral health-care professionals say, “It’s not the brush, it’s the brusher,” meaning that the exact type of brush you use isn’t nearly as important as your brushing technique and diligence. Any approved brush will be a good tool, but you have to know how to use it.
Electric is fine, but not always necessary — Electric or power-assisted toothbrushes are a fine alternative to manual brushes. They are especially useful for people who are less than diligent about proper brushing technique or for people with physical limitations that make brushing difficult. As with manual brushes, choose soft bristles, brush for at least two minutes and don’t press too hard or you’ll damage your gums.
Choose the right toothpaste for you — It can be overwhelming to face the huge number of toothpaste choices in the average supermarket. Remember, the best toothpaste for you may not be the best toothpaste for someone else.
How to Floss
Here are a few general pointers about flossing:
- Floss once a day — Although there is no research to recommend an optimum number of times to floss, most dentists recommend a thorough flossing at least once a day. If you tend to get food trapped between teeth, flossing more often can help remove it.
- Take your time — Flossing requires a certain amount of dexterity and thought. Don’t rush.
- Choose your own time — Although most people find that just before bed is an ideal time, many oral-health-care professionals recommend flossing any time that is most convenient to assure that you will continue to floss regularly. Choose a time during the day when you can floss without haste.
- Don’t skimp on the floss — Use as much as you need to clean both sides of every tooth with a fresh section of floss. In fact, you may need to floss one tooth several times (using fresh sections of floss) to remove all the food debris. Although there has been no research, some professionals think reusing sections of floss may redistribute bacteria pulled off one tooth onto another tooth.
- Choose the type that works best for you — There are many different types of floss: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, ribbon and thread. Try different varieties before settling on one. People with teeth that are closely spaced will find that waxed floss slides more easily into the tight space. There are tougher shred-resistant varieties that work well for people with rough edges that tend to catch and rip floss.
How you hold the floss is a matter of personal preference. The most common method is to wind the floss around the middle fingers then pull it taut and guide it with your index fingers. You also can wind it around your index fingers and guide it with your thumb and middle fingers or simply hold the ends of the floss or use a floss-guiding tool. (If you have a fixed bridge, a bridge threader can help guide floss under the bridge for better cleaning.) How you hold the thread is not as important as what you do with it. If you can’t settle in on a good method, ask your dentist or hygienist for suggestions.
- Hold the floss so that a short segment is ready to work with.
- Guide the floss gently between two teeth. If the fit is tight, use a back-and-forth motion to work the floss through the narrow spot. Do not snap the floss in or you could cut your gums.
- Hold the floss around the front and back of one tooth, making it into a “C” shape. This will wrap the floss around the side edge of that tooth.
- Gently move the floss toward the base of the tooth and up into the space between the tooth and gum.
- Move the floss up and down with light to firm pressure to skim off plaque in that area. Do not press so hard that you injure the gum.
- Repeat for all sides of the tooth, including the outermost side of the last tooth. Advance the floss to a clean segment for each tooth edge.