The Road to Health is Paved with Proper Brushing & Flossing
The Downhill Slide
Although most people think they know the reasons for proper, daily tooth brushing, few people realize that clean teeth and healthy gums can protect against a variety of general, even life-threatening, health problems. When you don’t brush regularly, harmful bacteria multiply and plaque forms. Combined with sugar, saliva, mucus, and food debris, plaque creates a strong acid substance that eats away protective tooth enamel to cause tooth decay. A downhill slide can result.
Over time, the decay works its way below the enamel to infect tooth dentin, and this can cause pain and kill teeth. Meanwhile, plaque builds up on tooth surfaces and irritates gums, causing them to pull away from the teeth and expose the sensitive tooth roots. Loose gums form pockets where bacteria and infection gather. This nasty stuff can destroy the bone that holds teeth secure, resulting in tooth loosening or loss. Finally, chronic gum disease can break down the protective barrier between oral bacteria and your blood stream. This allows bacteria to enter your blood stream and increases the risk for a host of health problems like heart disease, stroke, respiratory illness, diabetes complications, and pregnancy complications.
The Uphill Climb
Maintain good oral health by establishing a solid habit of brushing twice daily with a soft toothbrush, using the proper technique and quality fluoride toothpaste, and flossing carefully once a day.
What’s the best brushing technique?
That depends on your personal dentition (arrangement and condition of your teeth), but general guidelines apply to all patients.
- Choose toothpaste with the ADA seal of approval.
- You should spend at least three to four minutes brushing with a small, soft, angled brush in little, circular motions across all tooth surfaces and the gum line.
- Cover two to three teeth at a time, applying gentle pressure. Harsh brushing can damage gums and cause painful sensitivity.
- After brushing your teeth, remember to brush or scrape your tongue to remove germs and bacteria that harm teeth and cause bad breath.
- Finally, rinse your entire mouth with water and spit out the debris. Brush twice daily or after meals, and floss between teeth once a day.
For more thorough brushing, consider purchasing an electric toothbrush. Some models feature an automatic cut off or warning light that kicks into action when you brush too harshly. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months so that the bristles remain effectively positioned and clean. For fresh breath and further prevention of bad bacteria, follow up with an over-the-counter mouthwash.
Facts on Flossing: Fight plaque, tooth decay, and bad breath in minutes
You may not realize that even when your mouth is clean, bacteria lurk in the warm, damp cave, growing and eating incessantly. These naturally occurring microorganisms make a delicacy of even the most minute food particles, after which they deposit a sticky residue on the teeth called plaque.
After you brush and floss, plaque accumulates throughout the day and night, especially in places where toothbrushes can’t reach. Left to harden into tartar, plaque build-up irritates gums and can trigger inflammation and gum disease. Sound like a nasty situation? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can virtually eliminate plaque by carefully brushing and properly flossing every day.
It’s really that simple: your toothbrush cleans the tops and sides of your teeth, while the floss cleans between them. Flossing also polishes teeth and controls bad breath. An extra two or three minutes spent flossing each day can give you a huge advantage in the war against those bad bacteria.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice and flossing once daily.
Two Flossing Techniques
Correct flossing is a fairly easy thing to learn: either via the spool method, if you’re quite dexterous, or via the loop method if you’re less nimble with your fingers.
- Pull off about 18 inches of floss.
- Wind most of it lightly around your middle finger. Don’t pull tightly and cut off your circulation!
- Then wind the remaining floss around your other hand’s middle finger to take up the used floss as you go.
- Now, push the floss in between your teeth using your index fingers and thumbs.
- Gently bring the floss up and down several times around both sides of each tooth, making sure to reach below the gum line, forming a C around each tooth with the floss.
- Pull or push it against your gums carefully so that you don’t hurt them; avoid rubbing it from side to side.
- Pull off an 18-inch strand of floss, then make it into a circle.
- Tie the circle with three secure knots, and place all of your fingers (not your thumb) within the loop.
- Next, use your index fingers to direct the floss through your lower teeth, and your thumbs to direct it through your upper teeth.
- Again, be sure to clean below the gum line, and make the floss form a C around the sides of each tooth.
If you’re not especially skilled with your hands, or if you have to floss someone else’s teeth for them, you may want to consider a pre-threaded flossing tool. These small plastic devices come in bulk packages at drugstores. They are rather inexpensive but very effective.
Styles of Floss
Don’t let the wide variety of flosses confuse you; simply choose the one that appeals to you the most so that you’ll use it. The style you choose is far less important than the fact that you do floss! Consider these distinguishing factors. Wide floss, also called dental tape, works well for bridgework or widely-spaced teeth. You may also find that waxed flosses slide more smoothly between tight teeth or restorations. On the other hand, unwaxed floss squeaks, indicating that you’ve gotten your teeth clean, and bonded, unwaxed floss is sturdier than unbonded, unwaxed floss.