FAQs about Toothbrushing
How frequently should I brush and what type of toothbrush should I use?
It is recommended that brushing twice daily (minimum of 2 minutes each time), using a soft, nylon bristled toothbrush, is most effective at removing plaque. Harder, stiffer bristles can damage teeth and gums.
Which is better, an electric toothbrush or a manual toothbrush?
When used properly, both types of toothbrushes are equally effective at removing plaque. It has been our experience that if someone exercises good plaque control with a manual toothbrush, theres no reason to change. However, those persons needing a “boost” in motivation when it comes to plaque control sometimes do better with an electric toothbrush. Whichever works best in your hand to get the job well-done is the best toothbrush for you.
When is it time to get a new toothbrush?
When the bristles are no longer straight, but tend to flare outward. This can happen in as little as three weeks, or in three months. If the bristles flare out within three to four weeks, it may be an indication that your brushing technique needs to be modified. Be sure to check with your dental professionals for additional assistance.
How should I brush my teeth?
Start on the inside (tongue and palatal side) of the teeth, placing the tip of the brush at the area where the gum and tooth meet. Use a small circular motion, and with gentle pressure brush each tooth individually, working your way around the upper and lower teeth allowing 1-2 minutes. Then brush the outside (cheek side) of the teeth in the same manner allowing 1-2 minutes. Brush the chewing surfaces (occlusal surfaces) of both upper and lower teeth. Lastly, brush the tongue.
Be careful not to scrub too hard or you might cause erosions to form on the teeth at the gum line, and can even “brush away” the gums, causing gum recession.
Should I brush my gums, too?
Yes, but in a specific, safe way. Brushing at the gum line improperly can cause the gums to recede. When this happens, the teeth become sensitive, especially to cold drinks.
The best way to remove the plaque at the gum line is to slant the toothbrush head on a 45 degree angle to the tooth. This means that when you’re brushing the mandibular (lower) teeth, the bristles are slanted downward, and for the maxilla (top) teeth, the bristles are slanted upward. Use a short, gentle stroke that “wiggles” the bristles at the gum line. This technique effectively removes the plaque and should not traumatize the gums. Think about it when you do it this way, you’re essentially only removing the plaque from one or two teeth at a time, not a large group of them. After finishing one area, move on to other teeth until all – outside and inside – teeth have been cleaned. Though cumbersome and slow at first, this plaque-removal technique can skillfully be performed in the 2 minutes of recommended brushing time.
It is also a good idea to brush your cheeks, roof of your mouth, and tongue for fresher breath.
How can I check to see if I have removed all the plaque from my teeth?
Dental plaque is hard to see unless it is stained. Plaque can be stained by chewing red “disclosing tablets” sold at grocery stores and drug stores, or by using a cotton swab to smear green food coloring on the teeth. The color left on the teeth shows where there is still plaque. Extra flossing and brushing will remove this plaque.
But is brushing enough to remove all the plaque from my teeth?
No, it is not. In fact its been estimated that toothbrushing removes as little as 30% of the plaque, and the plaque it does remove is not in the areas that cause tooth decay or periodontal (gum and bone) disease. Why? Because toothbrush bristles do not reach in between teeth and barely get below the gum line, where the more harmful plaque is harbored. For this reason dental professionals periodontists, dentists and hygienists – recommend dental flossing and the judicious use of toothpicks.