You’ve been brushing and flossing your teeth for how long now…25 years? 35 years? 50 years? With so much practice you must be an expert—someone who has perfected their technique through years of routine practice. Right? Or maybe not. Maybe brushing your teeth has become so routine that you aren’t even paying attention to what you are doing most of the time. Perhaps you only floss your teeth when you have “extra time” on the weekends, but not during the week when you are rushing to bed at night.
It’s easy to take for granted the importance of your home dental routine; it’s more than just a box to check on the way out the door. As Dr. Nielson, Dr. Schmidt, and Dr. Santoro will tell you, brushing and flossing are critical tasks if you are planning on keeping your teeth for life. (Yes, it’s possible these days!)
Call Life Smiles Dental in Phoenix at (602) 786-5484
and schedule your checkup and dental cleaning today!
Brushing Your Teeth
The problem with cleaning your teeth, unlike cleaning an oven or a car, is that you can’t really see where the dirt (bacteria and plaque) is. You have to take it on faith that if you brush long enough, you will eventually clean every surface. To some extent this can be true, but the problem many people have is that fixed routines sometimes neglect certain corners of the mouth, which can lead to major plaque build-up over time.
Varying your routine is the best way to make sure you actually clean your teeth, not just brush. The next time you brush, take a good look in the mirror and make sure you are hit every tooth. Vary your brush strokes and angles, so you use up-and-down strokes, side-to-side strokes, and circular movements. Focus on finding a way into those hard-to-reach areas every time you brush.
Another thing to consider is how recommended brushing techniques have changed over the years. If you are still brushing your teeth the same way you were taught in elementary school, you may not be using a method that is recommended today.
Tips for Brushing
- Use a soft bristled brush, as hard brushes can damage your gums and enamel with harsh pressure.
- Replace your brush after about 200 uses (every 100 days) or at the very least when you notice the bristles are starting to bend or fray.
- Brush for at least 2 minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste bearing the ADA seal.
- Brush your teeth on every surface: front (cheek side), back (tongue side), and on the chewing surface of your molars. Brush gently at the gum line, and vigorously on chewing surfaces.
- Don’t forget to clean your tongue, using a back-to-front motion with your toothbrush. Specially designed tongue-cleaners can also be used to remove plaque from your tongue.
- If you use an electric toothbrush, choose one with the ADA seal. Electric toothbrushes can vary in vibration, speed, and brush movement. Some can even be less efficient than manual brushing. Those with the ADA seal have been evaluated and recommended by professionals.
Whether your teeth are widely spaced, or crammed together—everyone should floss their teeth daily. Brushing alone does not thoroughly clean the surfaces where teeth meet.
A common misconception is that flossing is for removing food from between your teeth. But the goal of flossing is actually to remove plaque and tartar that has calcified and become insoluble, hiding out in places a toothbrush cannot reach. Your teeth may feel squeaky clean after brushing, but the nooks and crannies your toothbrush can’t reach are the same places your tongue won’t feel.
For many people, the hardest part of a flossing routine is actually doing it daily. If you haven’t been flossing regularly, you probably notice bleeding when you do floss—which can make you even less inclined to do it again the next day. But it’s critical that you do; the only way to stop bleeding when you floss is to make it a daily occurrence. After two weeks of daily flossing, the bleeding should stop and your gums will be stronger than ever. (If it doesn’t, you may be suffering from gum disease and should schedule a periodontal exam.)
Tips for Flossing
- Be sure to (1) floss between your teeth, AND (2) floss at the gum line, using a C-curve movement to remove plaque from the space between the tooth and gum.
- Move the floss up and down a few times to scrape the plaque from the surfaces between your teeth.
- If your teeth are tightly spaced (you hear a ‘pop’ when you floss) you may find that a Teflon-coated floss, such Glide floss, works best.
- Pre-loaded flossers can make your routine easier if your teeth are not too close together. Whether it is fluoride-coated or not, make sure the flosser you use is the correct size—as many are designed to fit a child’s mouth.
At Life Smiles Dental Care, our professionals are used to seeing patients at all levels of dental health. Call our office at (602) 786-5484 to schedule an office visit to see if your brushing and flossing routine could benefit from the advice of a professional.