By this time, toothbrushing is so mundane that you don’t know how you’re doing it or for how long, much less how effective your technique is. Maybe your only reasons for brushing are to freshen your breath and because you were told to do it ever since you can remember. Yes, we know that brushing helps prevent cavities.

Here’s the skinny on Safe, effective plaque removal:

    Use a soft or extra-soft-bristled brush
    Brush at least 2x a day: morning and night
    Angle the bristles 45 degrees so that they are directed into the gum line.
    If using a manual toothbrush, brush in a circular motion.
    If using an electric toothbrush, gently hold the moving bristles at the gum    

    Brush each quadrant of your mouth for 30seconds.
    Remember to brush the cheek side, tongue side and biting surfaces.
    Gums, cheeks, and tongue harbor bacteria; brush them, too.

Back-and-forth brushing results in heavy, irreversible wear of the tooth, forming grooves that are sensitive and decay easily.  These teeth have been abraded by back-and-forth scrubbing.

In my office, I give patients the tongue cleaner by Discus Dental to remove plaque that forms on the surface of the tongue, which is a reservoir of bacteria.  Try brushing your tongue with a toothbrush then using a tongue cleaner.  You won’t believe the amount of debris left behind by a toothbrush.

Brushing removes sticky, acidic plaque that cannot be rinsed away.

Best times to brush: first thing in the morning and right before bed.
Bacteria are present everywhere in the mouth constantly. They require simple sugar to proliferate. When we feed ourselves, we also feed them. They produce acidic plaque between meals.

Proper brushing begins with a soft or extra-soft toothbrush. Extra-soft toothbrushes are often marketed to people with sensitive teeth, but they’re good for everyone. Do not use a medium or hard bristled brush. I checked my local Safeway and was sad to see that Colgate, Reach, and Safeway brands all sell Medium bristled brushes. Shame on them!! Enamel may be the hardest substance in the body, but it certainly is not immune to abrasion or erosion.

Electric toothbrushes clean better than manual toothbrushes because there is more movement in the bristles.

Find a head that is small enough to reach the cheek side of your upper back teeth and the tongue side of your lower back teeth. Often, the jaw joint and tongue make it difficult to fit a toothbrush into those areas. These are areas that dental hygienists constantly find heavier plaque deposits, and where dentists often find cavities.

Brush twice and floss daily.

Dr. Cook

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