Unless your dentist recommends otherwise, you should brush at least twice a day, and should floss once each day. Fluoride may help to reinforce and strengthen your teeth against the bacteria that cause decay. Regular, frequent brushing and flossing keep your teeth healthier by eradicating bacteria and removing particles of food between the teeth. If you do not brush and floss regularly, the bacteria in your mouth will develop into plaque, and then into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist, and can cause the early stages of gum disease in your mouth.
If you have questions about the best ways to brush and floss, and about which type of toothbrush, toothpaste, or floss to use, speak with your dentist.
We recommend that you brush for the first time each day before breakfast. Brushing after breakfast may damage your teeth, as the enamel is softened by a rapid rise in acidity after food is consumed. This acid will be neutralized by your saliva in about one hour. Brushing before you eat may prevent you from gradually removing the protective layer, enamel ,of your teeth.
The reverse is true at night. When brushing at night, eat first, and then wait an hour before you brush. This will give the saliva in your mouth enough time to neutralize the acids caused by eating and allow your tooth enamel to harden again.
Proper Brushing Technique
When you brush your teeth, be sure to:
- Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles. This will help prevent gum damage and eventually gum recession.
- Moisten your toothbrush before you begin brushing.
- Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle towards your gums, and use a circular, back-and-forth motion to clean your teeth.
- Clean your upper teeth first.
- Begin brushing the front side of the teeth at the back of the mouth.
- Once you finish cleaning the outer surface of the tooth, focus on the chewing surfaces.
- Clean the inner surface of the teeth last.
- Make sure to clean the parts of the teeth closest to the gum. If this area not cleaned, your risk of developing gum disease increases.
- Do not clean more than 3 teeth at a time.
- When you complete cleaning your upper arch of teeth, use the same techniques to clean the lower arch of teeth.
- Make sure to clean your tongue. Cleaning the tongue can help to prevent bad breath, and is particularly important for people who smoke or use tobacco. Clean the tongue by stroking in a back-to-front direction.
Flossing reaches areas of your mouth that your toothbrush cannot. Dental floss is much more flexible than a toothbrush, and can be used to clean between the teeth all the way down to the gum line.
How to Floss
When flossing, we recommend that you:
- Use 18 inches (45 centimeters) of dental floss. This will give you a clean section of floss for each tooth.
- Floss gently to avoid cutting into the gums. Press the dental floss gently along the tooth and into the gums, and move in back and forth and up and down to dislodge embedded material.
You may also want to consider using a dental aid in your oral hygiene care. There are many mechanical aids that work to improve your oral hygiene, such as the electric tooth brush, water picks, and interdental cleaners. Consult your dentist to determine if this will assist you in maintaining good oral health, and to learn which dental aid will be most useful to you.