It is a fact, toothbrushing is a difficult skill to master properly and many people brush less effectively than desired. The control of plaque is essential to prevent tooth and gum problems. It is also important in reaching the best outcome from periodontal and restorative treatment. Plaque is the sticky, soft layer of bacteria which forms on teeth continually. Thorough brushing every day will control it’s accumulation.
It may appear to you that every dentist suggests a different way about how you should brush your teeth, leaving you confused. It is important that, whatever method you use:
* you recognise the difference between a clean tooth surface and one with plaque on it.
* you have a systematic approach to ensure that all parts of the mouth have been cleaned.
* the technique causes no damage to the teeth or gums.
* all teeth surfaces are cleaned thoroughly, particularly at the area where the gums meet the teeth, and in-between the teeth. (Cleaning between the teeth is discussed in detail in a separate pamphlet).
Changing the way you brush can be difficult. In effect, you have to ‘unlearn’ an old habit and create a new one. So it is important to practice a new technique slowly and thoroughly. Try to find a time in the day or evening when you are not tired or rushed.
he technique outlined in this pamphlet is a general starting point. Crowding of the teeth, gaps between the teeth, the presence of dentures or bridges in the mouth, and the shape of your mouth may mean that you will have to alter this technique in certain areas of your mouth. We will point these areas out to you and advise you on the necessary modifications.
Run your tongue over the surface of your teeth. You may notice a rougher, furry feeling at the area where the tooth meets the gums, particularly on the cheek surfaces of your upper back (Molar) teeth, and the tongue-side surfaces of your lower back teeth. Plaque is often left on these surfaces unless particular attention is given to them. Alternatively you may use a disclosing tablet to help identify plaque build-up on your teeth.
Plan a systematic approach to brushing every tooth in your mouth. For example, start in the upper arch, at the last standing tooth on the right side. Brush the cheek surfaces of all the upper teeth, a few at a time, until you reach the last standing tooth on the left side. Then move back on the inside surfaces of the teeth ( The tongue side) from left to right. Repeat this for the lower arch of teeth. Finally, the biting surfaces of the teeth can be brushed.
Use a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Hold the brush at an angle so that the bristles are aimed at the crevice between th tooth and gum, at the starting point that you have planned. Use a small amount of pressure to lightly push the brush against the gums. Using a very small motion, move the brush backwards and forwards, while keeping your head still. This small back and forward motion should cover only two or three teeth at a time – long strokes may leave plaque behind.
Place the brush so that the next segment of two or three teeth can be cleaned. Continue to work your way around the mouth in the systematic way that you have planned . Do not rush – effective brushing will probably take longer than you are used to! And do not be worried if your gums bleed, as you are not damaging your gums. The bleeding is most likely an indicator that plaque has been allowed to build up in that area, and the gums have reacted by becoming inflamed. If you keep brushing effectively for a few days, the bleeding should stop – a sign that your gums are getting better.
When you have Finished Brushing, Run your tongue over the surfaces of your teeth again. If there are any areas that still feel rough or furry, try to brush these again. It is possible that some of the plaque may have become hard, and formed into tartar ( or calculus, as we call it). Brushing cannot remove this calcified deposit – it will have to be professionally removed. By brushing your teeth effectively, the build-up of calculus can be minimized
Some common questions
How often should I brush my teeth?
It is better to take the time to clean your teeth effectively once a day, rather than rush it and brush ineffectively twice a day! However, many people feel a need to brush their teeth twice a day – in the morning to freshen up their mouth, and in the evening to clean off the plaque that has accumulated during the day.
How often do I need to replace my toothbrush?
If you brush effectively, you may be surprised to see your toothbrush showing signs of wear sooner than you expect! Idealy, you should replace your brush before it becomes too shaggy – this will vary from periods of every one to two months depending on your brushing technique.
What toothpaste should I Use?
There are many different types of toothpastes available. Nearly all toothpastes in Australia contain fluoride, which is very important in the prevention of tooth decay. In the prevention of gum diseases, the most important aspect is the technique of brushing that you use so that plaque is controlled, rather than the type of toothpaste used.
If you are having any problems with adapting to a new way of brushing your teeth, or if you have sensitive teeth or gums while brushing, we can help you – just mention it at your next visit.
DR. MALCOLM J. GRENNESS
B.D.Sc., L.D.S., M.Med.Sc., PhD, F.R.A.C.D.S
Call: (03) 6224 3575
158 Collins Street, Hobart
Monday – Friday 8.45am-5.15pm
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