In an ideal world, we would all have a travel-sized toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss ready for use after every meal, snack, and coffee break. Realistically, however, this level of oral hygiene adherence rarely (if ever) occurs. So, what does that mean for those of us who generally go all day without so much as a swish of mouthwash? Are we really doing more harm than we know? And, what about those people who forget to brush before falling into bed at night? Are they destined to have a mouth full of decay?
Not necessarily. While the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, there are other factors that impact the effectiveness of brushing, and recent research indicates that method may be more important than frequency when it comes to oral health.
Your toothbrush – If you’re using the wrong toothbrush for your mouth, brushing more won’t help. In fact, it might damage your gums or tooth enamel. When selecting a toothbrush, the size and shape of the brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily, including hard-to-reach back teeth. If the brush is too large, you can damage your gums. Generally, a soft-bristled toothbrush is best for teeth, as medium and stiff bristles might be too hard on gums and enamel. To maintain your toothbrush’s effectiveness, it’s also important to replace your toothbrush every three months or as soon as it shows wear and tear (i.e., fraying).
Your brushing technique – Using bad form at the gym essentially cancels out your effort, and the same is true when it comes to brushing your teeth. A quick once around the mouth isn’t enough to remove bacteria and plaque! When it comes to brushing techniques, the ADA recommends using a 45-degree angle to gently brush back and forth in short strokes, making sure to brush all surfaces. It is important that you don’t forget to brush your tongue because bacteria accumulate between taste buds and other crevices, leading to bad breath and potentially more serious issues.
When you brush – We tend to think that the best way to tackle plaque and avoid cavities is to brush immediately after eating or drinking. However, it really depends on what we eat or drink. Brushing your teeth right after a meal is intended to prevent acid attacks; however, this only works if the acid hasn’t already started to attack your tooth enamel. For example, if you’ve just finished consuming something highly acidic, such as citrus fruit, the acid attack will likely be underway when you start brushing. This is problematic since acidic foods and drinks leave tooth enamel soft, and if you brush your teeth before the enamel has hardened, you may end up removing the enamel. To avoid enamel damage, it’s best to wait 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods and beverages before brushing your teeth. By that time, your enamel will be re-hardened and won’t be damaged by your brushing.
Regular brushing is an essential part of a healthy oral hygiene routine, but simply brushing twice a day doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. The toothbrush you use, how you brush, and when you brush also impact oral health. As your dental care provider, we can help you master the right brushing technique and maintain proper oral hygiene. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact our office.