It is important to have your teeth professionally cleaned by your dentist or oral hygienist at least twice a year. If you suffered from previously treated periodontal disease, have your teeth cleaned professionally every three months.
The main cause of periodontal disease and tooth decay is bacterial plaque. Plaque forms continuously on your teeth and is a sticky colourless film. It can be made more visible with the use of "disclosing" dyes. By removing plaque daily, you can prevent the damage associated with periodontal disease and decay.
Daily plaque control is very important! Periodontal disease is the major cause of adult tooth loss. It affects three out of every four adults. Replacing lost teeth is the most expensive form of dental treatment. By making an investment of time into your daily plaque removal, you may be able to avoid thousands of rands of replacement dentistry. Usually only ten to fifteen minutes a day is required to fully cleanse your mouth of these harmful bacteria.
Proper brushing helps minimise the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, the major causes of tooth loss. Use a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and food particles. Replace your brush every three months.
On outer and inner surfaces, brush at a 45-degree angle in short, half-tooth-wide strokes against the gumline. Then gently wipe bristles from gum towards tip of tooth.
On chewing surfaces, hold the brush flat and brush back and forth.
On inside surfaces of front teeth, tilt brush vertically and use gentle left to right strokes with toe of brush, then pull bristles towards tip of tooth.
Brush the tongue in a back-to-front sweeping motion to remove food particles and freshen your mouth. Brush your tongue, removing the bacteria that cause bad breath, will freshen your breath. Use a tongue scraper if you do not feel comfortable cleaning your tongue with your toothbrush. If you have a bad breath problem, brushing the roof of your mouth might also help.
- When you brush your teeth, you remove most of the plaque-causing bacteria. But some stay behind. These bacteria can set up a colony and begin damaging your teeth within 24 hours--which is why dentists recommend brushing twice a day to consistently interrupt their growth.
- After finishing brushing your teeth, you can check if you have effectively removed dental plaque by using disclosing tablets.
- Avoid the use of hard toothbrushes. Do not use too much force while brushing teeth. In both cases you could cause abrasions to the tooth enamel or dentin, that could lead to tooth sensitivity problems.
- A correct brushing must have a duration of 4 to 5 minutes.
- After brushing teeth use the dental floss to complete your dental hygiene.
The Best Toothbrush For You
In order to choose the best toothbrush that provides you with adequate teeth cleaning, you should know that a modern toothbrush must have:
- A head size and design that feels comfortable in your mouth and allows you to easily reach all the teeth in your mouth.
- Anatomic grip to help you make the correct tooth brushing moves
- Nylon bristles (natural bristles wear out easier and allow the growth of bacteria).
- Rounded end of bristles to avoid damaging the gums.
- Your dentist will advise you for the right toothbrush hardness (soft or medium) and type, according to your specific needs, mouth shape and dental problems. In general, the safest choice is a soft toothbrush.
The use of a electrical toothbrush can be beneficial in certain circumstances. Ask your dentist or oral hygienist for more information.
Special care must be taken when choosing an infant toothbrush, because kids have more tender gums that are easily injured. Kids toothbrushes should have:
- Small head size to fit in the small mouth of the infant
- Soft bristles to protect the child's teeth and tender gums
- Large and anatomic grip for easier handling
- Flexible neck material to absorb excessive brushing pressure
- Attractive design and colours to make tooth brushing a pleasure for the kid.
- For kids under the age of two, you could use a special type of infant toothbrush that fits over your finger (without handle) to clean their teeth
- Ask a dentist before buying one of the infant electric toothbrushes for your kid.
When To Change Your Toothbrush
The bristles of the toothbrush wear out during brushing. After some time they don't provide adequate cleaning and may injure the gums. To always have the best results from brushing you must change the toothbrush:
- Every 3-4 months
- Immediately after the bristles start to loose their natural position on the head of the toothbrush
- After a cold or flue
- Children toothbrushes have to be changed more often since they wear out easier.
- A toothbrush is a strictly personal item, do not share it with anyone else.
How to Store Your Toothbrush
The right way of storing your toothbrush will allow you to keep it in good shape for a longer period. To achieve it, after every brushing:
- Wash and rinse the toothbrush well to remove any remaining toothpaste, food debris and bacteria.
- Store it in upright position in a well ventilated area to help drying
- Do not cover the toothbrush head or put it in a closet, at least not before it dries completely. The moisture that remains on the toothbrush may help the growth of bacteria.
- If your toothbrush is stored in the same holder with another person's tooth brush, keep them separated to avoid cross contamination.
Toothpastes vary widely in their ingredients and their effectiveness. If you look at the selection in any dental section, you will soon be very confused. The most basic concept to remember is that there are specific pastes for specific goals. There are whiteners, tartar controls, cavity fighting, and breath freshening products. Stay away from abrasive toothpastes.
The most vulnerable area of the gum to periodontal disease resides between the teeth. Even the best brush designs cannot clean this area. There are many different types of dental floss. Flossing is the most effective way to reach these areas.
Different types of Dental Floss
Today there are many different types of dental floss commercially available:
- Waxed and Unwaxed dental floss
- Thread/String and Tape dental floss
- Flavoured and Unflavoured dental floss
- Teflon dental floss
- The main benefits of flossing are the mechanical removal of food residuals and dental plaque bacteria from teeth and gums. Use of dental floss should be an indispensable part of your daily oral hygiene routine.
- Although it is suggested -as for tooth brushing- that you floss after each meal, using dental floss even only once a day could be enough to keep you in good oral health, assuming of course that you do it thoroughly and effectively using proper flossing methods. If you use dental floss only once per day, prefer flossing teeth at night before you go to bed.
- Regarding the duration of flossing, the answer is simple : 'as long as it takes' (depending on your dexterity and expertise on how to use dental floss).
- It is normal to have some gum bleeding when flossing. Do not suspend flossing. On the contrary, gum bleeding is a sign that your oral hygiene is not perfect and you should be more persistent in brushing and flossing teeth.
- After flossing use disclosing tablets to check if dental plaque has been removed.
- Break off about 45-50 cm of floss and wind most of it (~30 cm) around one of your middle fingers.
- Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.
- Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, leaving ~3cm of floss between your hands.
- Guide the dental floss to the space between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums to avoid injuries.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
- Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.
- Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth. Don't forget the back side of your last tooth.
- It is important that you wash your mouth with water or mouthwash after flossing your teeth, so the debris you have loosened up is rinsed out of your mouth.
- If the dental floss starts to get stuck in a spot where it didn't in the past, you should visit your dentist as it could be a sign of tooth decay.
- You should also introduce your children to dental floss early so that they become accustomed to the correct way of flossing teeth.
- Wrap an 40 cm strand around your middle fingers and hold a 3cm section tightly.
- Ease floss between teeth.
- Clean up and down several times while curving around teeth at the gumline.
- Always floss behind the last tooth.
- Unwind clean floss as you proceed.
- Floss around the abutment teeth of a bridge and under artificial teeth using a floss threader or superfloss.
Waxed and teflon made dental flosses that slide more easily between the teeth. The best dental floss for you is the one you find easiest to use.
If you find it difficult to floss, you can use a flossing aid, such as a dental floss holder, flossing handle, or an electric or pre-threaded flosser. A dental floss threader can make it easier to floss when wearing fixed orthodontic braces, under bridges, implants and between connected crowns.
Dental Flossing information and tips
How to use Dental Floss - Dental Flossing techniques
Most people floss only once a day, many even less often. It is very important that you use the correct way to floss, in order to remove as much dental plaque as possible. The recommended flossing methods are described here:
The Correct Way to Floss
Flossing daily removes plaque and food particles between teeth and below the gumline.
You may experience sore or bleeding gums for the first several days you floss. If bleeding continues after the first week of flossing, call your dental professional. If you have trouble handling floss, ask your dentist about the use of a floss holder, or other types of interdental cleaning aids.
Be sure to follow the special home care instructions provided by your dental professional.
Occasionally you will be instructed to use a small, conical shaped brush for additional cleaning between your teeth. These are particularly advantageous when there are larger spaces between your teeth. They are very helpful for cleaning around orthodontic braces. These should also be used twice a day.
Rinse vigorously for as long as the manufacturer advises to dislodge plaque and food particles that have been loosened by the brushing and flossing. There are several brands of rinses. Ones containing fluoride are most beneficial for daily use.
Oral irrigation devices are particularly helpful in removing food particles after meals, especially from around bridgework and other hard to clean areas. Additional clinical benefits can be accomplished with irrigation devices if a diluted, commercially available rinse is used instead of plain water.
The top surface of the tongue is a haven for plaque! Brushing the tongue is helpful, but using tongue scrapers is far more effective. Do this every night! You'll be surprised how much plaque you remove.