At just about every dentist’s appointment, you’ll receive a teeth cleaning. These cleanings help to remove unsightly and corroding plaque and tartar, but are meant to supplement your at-home brushing and oral health habits. Many of our Encino patients ask the dentist how to best brush their teeth or teach their children to do so, so we’ve decided to share a blog that outlines just that; you may be surprised to find some things in here you didn’t know.
Brushing Like a Dentist
In order to brush like your dentist really wants you to, you’ll first need the right tools. First and foremost, don’t get just any old toothbrush or something that is over-marketed; ignore the bells and whistles and go for a toothbrush that features soft bristles (they will be labeled as such). These have become more difficult to track down, as toothbrush manufacturers are committed to making gimmicky toothbrushes that they claim do 10 things beyond clean your teeth; avoid these and go with soft bristles. Next, make sure you’re using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is crucial for strengthening your teeth, and the amount of misinformation found about the potential hazards of fluoride are taken out of context and blown way out of proportion. The brief reality about fluoride is that since we’ve been using it in toothpaste and drinking it in our water, our teeth have managed to last beyond the age of 30 (which wasn’t nearly as true less than 70 years ago).
You’ve probably heard that you should brush your teeth for two minutes, but perhaps you were told to sing the happy birthday song twice or sing the ABC’s song; in reality, it is best to spend 15 seconds a piece on your each upper and lower teeth’s interior and exterior; this amounts to 1 minute on the top and 1 minute on the bottom and is far more reliable than simply pushing a brush randomly for 2 minutes. Another basic that many overdo is simply overusing toothpaste. While using the amount of toothpaste you see in commercials isn’t innately harmful, you really only need about the size of a pea on your brush for a full-grown adult (smaller for smaller people, down to a grain of rice sized spec for an infant). Using the correct amount of paste will create less lather, but also allow you to comfortably keep the slurried mix in your mouth for the full two minutes and prevent you from excessive spitting later.
While we won’t go through point-by-point how exactly you should brush your teeth, there is a specific technique that works best and many more that work far less well. First off, remember that we recommend a soft-bristled toothbrush, simply because pushing hard or subjecting your teeth to even lightly abrasive bristles actually wears away your relatively fragile tooth enamel. Enamel protects your teeth, so we want to protect it by only lightly pressing on the toothbrush and using a swirling motion rather than a back and forth or up and down stroke; as is true with car wax, swirling strokes are far less damaging and serve to “buff in” the toothpaste, rather than scratching it in. Lastly, don’t rinse your mouth after you brush; instead, spit out excess foam and take a small amount of water into the bristles of your brush and quickly go over the surface of your teeth again, spitting once more afterward. Doing this will leave a small fluoride film inside your mouth, protecting you through the day or night and even helping to freshen breath!