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Do You Need A Teeth Brushing Timer?

Posted 20 January 2014 in News

Timer

All of us brush our teeth and some of us brush our teeth three times a day. But just how much time should you be brushing for? Researchers and dentists have always been divided about the exact amount of tooth brushing time required for adults and children.

Does tooth brushing time really affect plaque and cavity formation? If so, then does this time also depend on technique, toothpaste, and the brush used?

The Function of Toothbrushing

As we all know, all of us have that dirty, furry feeling in our mouths when we get up in the morning. Ideally, that furry white deposit in your mouth consists of bacterial colonies. Mouth-dwelling bacteria have used the salivary proteins and lingering food particles to reproduce overnight to form white colonies. As the bacteria are living organisms, they also carry out normal metabolic actions in which leftovers or metabolic by-products are produced. In human beings, metabolic by-products are voided daily in the form of waste, but in the case of bacteria, these by-products linger in the mouth overnight. These by-products consist of oral acids that cause the sour oral taste and a foul gas that causes bad breath.

The bacterial acids and gases also contribute to cavity formation.  Leaving the bacterial colonies or the furry white film in place can cause problems like solidified plaque, discoloured teeth, gingivitis and periodontal disease, cavities and tooth loss.

The function of tooth brushing at night and early in the morning is to remove as much of the bacteria, lingering food particles, salivary proteins and plaque from the mouth as possible to prevent or minimize oral health problems.

The Effectivity of Tooth Brushing

Many oral health organisations are very clear on tooth brushing times: according to them, the best way to ensure clean teeth is to brush for at least 2 to 3 minutes using the Bass Technique or modifications of the Bass Technique.

The Bass Technique teaches tooth-brushing  technique to clear up as much saliva, plaque and food material off of the teeth as possible. A recent study by C. Ganss, N. Schlueter (Clinical Oral Investigations) showed that a large amount of adults and teenagers used a combination of brushing techniques that were ineffective in cleaning the teeth and oral cavity properly. Almost 73.8% brushed with a circling technique, 8.7% used horizontal/scrubbing actions, 13.6% used horizontal/circling motions and 3.9% used vertical/sweeping movements to clean teeth.

Although these motions were common, they were not done for a minimum of 2-4 minutes and they were not effective in cleaning out oral bacteria. In fact, less than 25.2% managed to clean out oral bacteria correctly as a result of incorrect brushing techniques and insufficient brushing times of less than 45 seconds.  Another study noted that toothpastes and type of toothpaste did not significantly affect brushing time or brushing effectiveness. However, increased information about proper brushing techniques along with better toothpastes, proprietary toothbrushes and a longer brushing time did cause a significant drop in oral plaque and bacteria ( Source – J Dent Hyg Summer 2009 vol. 83 no. 3 111-116)

What Can Be Done To Improve Brushing Technique and Increase Brushing Time?

Oral care professionals should encourage patients to improve their brushing technique and brushing time. Parents are recommended to use timers for children and teenagers to encourage lifelong beneficial brushing methods. A study has also showed that caregiver oral caries levels and oral hygienemeasures did influence the oral behaviour of their children. As a result, parents or caregivers should also follow extended tooth brushing time to reinforce the message. At present, several teeth brushing timer aids are used to emphasize and improve brushing time for both adult and child patients.

Teeth brushing timers — There are several popular versions of brushing timers for children and adults.

  • Stationary teeth brushing timers – Most timers can be attached to the basin. The brusher starts the timer and stops brushing only when the timer starts beeping or chiming.
  • Manual tooth brushing timers – To make brushing exciting and fun, now manufacturers also use in-brush musical aids that activate when the brush is agitated. The music runs for 2-4 minutes depending on the manufacturer and the patient can stop brushing when the music track stops. As a variation on the song, toothbrush timers with flashing LED lights are a fun alternative as well.
  • Mobile teeth brushing timer apps – For older children and adults, mobile apps now run 2-minute music tracks that play your selected music. The app is also multifunctional and it will remind you about dental check-ups and toothbrush replacement.
  • Electric toothbrushes with a teeth brushing timer— Now electric toothbrushes have their own inbuilt timers or tracks and the machine will continue to agitate or vibrate until the two-minute time period is complete.
  • Other teeth brushing timers — One of the funniest and most entertaining ways to follow the two-minute rule is brushing during advertisements. Almost all ad breaks are for two minutes and this can be a great incentive to make your child brush his or her teeth.
  • Disclosing tablets — These are not essentially timers but they are very effective in motivating your child to brush for a minimum of 2 minutes. The tablets or solution can be swished around the mouth to show plaque and brushing for two minutes is required to remove the plaque.

Music CDs- The ADA does promote the use of music CDs that will encourage children and adults to brush for two minutes or more. These teeth brushing timer CDs are also available online from free oral education websites.

The Bottom Line

Most people do brush their teeth twice a day but this has not completely eliminated issues with plaque and tooth decay. Even with nationally fluoridated toothpaste and other innovative products, studies find that one in four five year olds have tooth decay problems.  More than 90% of adults aged 20 to 64 have had dental caries in permanent teeth, indicating that a large amount of people do not take full, correct care of their teeth. Researchers recommend extended brushing times (reinforced with a teeth brushing timer) that may go as high as 3 to 4 minutes to ensure optimum benefits from proprietary toothpastes, electric or manual toothbrushes, oral rinses and fluoridated water.

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Visited in February 2018. Posted on 18 April 2018