Effective brushing prevents plaque formation in the teeth, keeps gum diseases at bay, and prevents cavities and tooth decay. For the best results, one must follow a proper method of brushing. Brushing whichever way will not be too effective in removing and preventing plaque which is a layer of bacteria that forms a coating over the teeth. Apart from following a proper brushing technique, you must also take care to use the right kind of toothpaste and should regularly floss your teeth and gums at least twice a day in order to maintain a high standard of oral hygiene.
Proper choice of toothbrush is also important. Generally, dentists recommend using brushes with small brush heads since small heads enable one to better access the surface of your teeth and the back of the mouth than brushes that use larger heads. But first let us have a look at the right brushing techniques.
Horizontal movements with a gentle and soft scrub technique work best for most people and are effective in dislodging plaque. However, many dentists also recommend an up-and-down vertical method for the upper set of teeth and a down-and-up vertical motion for the lower set. According to many, this technique is more effective since you start right from the foot of the tooth and any food or plaque that is lodged at the junction of the gum and the tooth will be more effectively removed by using this method.
Another method of brushing prescribed by British Dental Health Foundation tells that one should tilt the brush head against the gum line at a 45 degree angle, and then move the brush gently in little circular movements on the surfaces of the teeth. This should be followed for every single tooth, and both for the inside and the outside surfaces of the tooth, always keeping the brush head angled steadily at 45 degree. The chewing surfaces should also be cleaned in the same manner.
However, while cleaning the front teeth, in addition to this method, you should also use small circular motions with the brush head positioned vertically. This is because the front teeth are more vulnerable to bacteria formation and the chances of food particles getting lodged are higher in the case of front teeth than with the teeth set deeper inside.
Apart from brushing, following a proper flossing technique is also important. It is necessary to keep in mind that regular flossing, apart from removing food particles wedged between teeth, also helps prevent halitosis (bad breath) and gum disease. Flossing must be done at least once a day. When flossing, it is important to have 2-3 inches of floss taut and straight between your hands. 10-12 strokes up and down between every two teeth should be adequate. Flossing can be performed both after or before brushing. An alternative to flossing (especially for those with very close set teeth) is to use an interspace toothbrush. No matter what you use, make sure never to apply toothpicks to dislodge food. Toothpicks can make the gum bleed which can result in a gum infection.
Along with a proper brushing and flossing technique, it is also important to know the right time for brushing. For example, one should never brush his teeth immediately after having food. Especially if you were having some food that contains acid such as wine, fruit, or fizzy drinks – brushing immediately after can cause damage to your teeth. This is since acid serves to soften the tooth enamel, and brushing can cause the softened enamel to wear away. So always wait half an hour to one hour after having a meal before you brush. Ideally, you should brush before having breakfast and before going to bed.
Many also ask whether they should use a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush. Studies show that manual brushes work just as well as an electronic toothbrush as long as you are applying the correct brushing technique. However, if you would prefer an electric toothbrush, make sure you choose a brush with a rotation-oscillation action. These brushes are found to be more effective in reducing inflammation of the gum area and in removing plaque. But make sure that you do not apply too much pressure with an electronic toothbrush. This however is just as true when you are using a manual toothbrush.
Excessive pressure often makes the gums recede (gingival recession), thereby exposing the roots of the teeth. An unnecessary amount of pressure may also result in abrasion and loss of tooth substance. Instead of gripping the brush with all four fingers, hold it lightly between the thumb and the forefinger while you are brushing. This will prevent any unnecessary pressure being applied on the teeth.
As for the toothpaste to use, pastes containing a high percentage of fluoride are always better for oral health since fluoride is very effective in removing bacteria and in preventing plaque formation. Check the toothpaste packaging to know how much fluoride the product contains. Normally, a toothpaste containing 1,000 ppm fluoride or more should be good enough. However, one may also go for medicated toothpastes which will contain 1,450 ppm fluoride or more.
Apart from following proper brushing techniques, one can also observe a couple of other routines to ensure sound oral health. One, for example, may use plaque-disclosing tablets to know if his teeth have developed any plaque formation. These tablets dye the areas affected with plaque with blue or red solutions.
This way you can know which areas in the teeth and the gum are most affected and brush those areas more attentively to remove the plaque. The stains from the dyeing will go away after brushing teeth a couple of times. Similarly, one can use some good mouthwash to get rid of bacteria and prevent gum disease and tooth decay. These mouthwash products contain a high concentration of fluoride, thus helping to remove more stubborn instances of plaque or food particles which will not dislodge with brushing teeth. However, make sure you do not use mouthwash right before or after brushing your teeth. Also, never drink or eat anything for 30 minutes after using the mouthwash.
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