You might think you mastered the art as a child, but many UK adults just aren’t brushing their teeth properly. Our team of dentists in Gloucester are here to help guide you through the best teeth brushing practices.
How do you brush your teeth? Do you use an electric toothbrush? A manual one? How about flossing? And how often do you brush?
According to a recent GSK Survey of 10,000 UK adults, people are not brushing their teeth as much as they should do.
Whether you use a manual toothbrush or an electric one, you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Not brushing can allow plaque and calculus (tartar) to take hold, leading to tooth decay and, eventually, fillings and extractions. You’d think that two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night would be the easiest thing but more than a quarter of the adults surveyed forget to brush and floss daily, with nearly half having gone to bed without brushing their teeth.
Why is this?
Honestly, we’re just too tired. Nowadays we all have a busy lifestyle, whether we work in a busy environment, are in the middle of our studies or are raising a family and we’re frequently too exhausted — or in too much of a rush — to brush. But those two minutes a day can save you hours in the dentist’s chair as well as hundreds of pounds!
Is an Electric or Manual Toothbrush Better?
Even if you are brushing your teeth twice a day, it might not count for much if you aren’t using the right equipment.
You should be using fluoridated toothpaste. Check the ingredients of your toothpaste for the word “fluoride” to make sure that you are. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and making it more resistant to decay as well as reducing the amount of acid the bacteria on your teeth can produce (which is another source of decay). Water fluoridation and toothpaste fluoridation combine together to protect your teeth.
The brush itself is important too. Although electric toothbrushes have their advantages, a manual toothbrush will also do the job if your technique is good.
Very young children should use manual brushes. First to improve their technique and second because they might be more sensitive to the vibration caused. As your child gets older, a child-friendly electric toothbrush might be suitable for them. As well as being available in fun shapes and colours, they have timers, meaning that your child knows how long to brush for.
They are also great for those with motor disabilities, arthritis or just poor tooth-brushing technique. Sometimes they also have special features such as quadrant timers (alerts every thirty seconds while brushing to change the area of the mouth you are focussing on) or pressure sensors to alert you to the fact that you are brushing too hard, a common cause of erosion and gum damage.
Whichever toothbrush you use, make sure you are replacing the heads every three months. If the heads are wearing out before then, you’re brushing too hard! And do make sure you use a toothbrush. 14% of survey respondents claimed to only use a finger to brush their teeth! Fingers will only add further bacteria to your mouth and make the situation worse.
Tooth decay isn’t just a problem in adults; although a child’s milk teeth are not permanent (and decay in their milk teeth will not cause decay in their adult teeth) setting up good dental hygiene habits will stay with them for life. On average, 34% of three-year-olds in Leicestershire suffer from tooth decay. Many of these children will go on to have poor oral health in their adult life.
Other Risks of Not Brushing
There are several links between gum disease and systemic disease caused as a result of not brushing your teeth regularly enough. Gum disease causes inflammation in the mouth but also affects the body’s bloodstream and can gradually damage major blood vessels. This may increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease or stroke and has also been linked to rheumatoid arthritis and alzheimer’s. To lower your risk, make sure you are taking good care of your teeth.
How Often Should I Brush My Teeth?
For the best level of dental health, you should brush your teeth twice a day. You should allow half an hour after meals for your tooth enamel to harden as brushing too soon can damage your teeth. You also shouldn’t rinse your mouth with water afterwards — toothpaste should stay on your teeth to allow it to protect them.
Good Technique: Brushing
The main things you will need to brush your teeth effectively are a fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristle toothbrush. You should replace this toothbrush every three months to prevent a buildup of food particles and also to stop the bristles wearing out and harming rather than helping. You should spend thirty seconds on each quarter of your mouth, making sure that you brush the whole of every tooth and paying special attention to your molars and wisdom teeth. These are often ignored as they are less visible than your front teeth but because of their position and shape, often having deep grooves and pits, they are prone to decay. Make sure you are gentle but thorough along the gum line and, when the rest of your mouth is clean, brush your tongue to remove food particles and bacteria.
Good Technique: Flossing
You should floss or use an interdental brush to remove food debris from between your teeth. Flossing reaches plaque and food particles in areas a toothbrush cannot reach. You will need to use a fresh area of floss for each tooth to avoid spreading infection or food particles so you will need a long piece: around twenty inches. Wind the floss around both of your middle fingers until you have around two inches of floss exposed. Hold this between your thumb and forefinger and slide it gently up and down between your teeth and then very gently around the base of each tooth below the gumline. Work your way around the mouth until you have flossed every tooth — this may be harder towards the back. Finally, rinse your mouth thoroughly with mouthwash.
To make sure your teeth are getting the dental attention they require, ask your dentist how often you should be seeing them. Depending on your mouth it will be between every six months and every two years.