Brushing and Flossing
Brushing and flossing are twin pillars that support proper oral hygiene. Along with bi-annual professional dental cleanings to remove tartar, plaque, and debris, proper home dental care practices are crucial to good dental health. Properly executed brushing and flossing will enhance the health of your mouth, maintain the sparkle in your smile, and aid in the prevention of serious diseases.
Reasons that proper brushing and flossing are important:
- Prevent tooth decay – One of the leading causes of tooth loss is tooth decay. Treatment of decayed teeth often entails complex dental procedures. When the acids found in plaque are allowed to erode the natural enamel which protects the teeth, tooth decay is the natural outcome. This problem may easily be prevented through the use of regular and proper oral hygiene practices.
- Prevent periodontal disease – Periodontal disease is a serious condition which is progressive. Over time, it becomes more acute, often leading to tooth loss and recession of gums and jawbones. One of the primary causes of periodontal disease is the toxins found in plaque. In addition to dental issues, these toxins have been shown to contribute to serious health problems in other parts of the body. Regular removal of plaque and calculus (tartar) from tooth surfaces (with a toothbrush), and from the interdental areas (spaces between the teeth) with dental floss will go a long way toward staving off periodontal problems.
- Prevent halitosis – Halitosis (or Bad Breath) is most commonly caused by old food particles that remain on or between the teeth. Such food particles can be readily removed by regular brushing and flossing. Regular dental hygiene leaves the mouth healthier, and breath will fresher.
- Prevent staining – Yellowing or staining of teeth may be caused by a variety of factors, including drinking wine, tea and / or Coffee, and smoking. By regularly removing such staining agents from the teeth through proper brushing and flossing techniques, you can minimize the likelihood of such stains becoming permanent.
Proper Brushing Technique
Your teeth should be brushed a minimum of two times per day. A good practice is to brush in the morning and again before going to bed. The ideal toothbrush is small enough to reach all of the “nooks and crannies” of your teeth and gums, and has soft, rounded-end bristles. Be sure that the bristles are soft enough that they will not cause damage to gum tissue. It’s also important that you replace your brush frequently – at least every three months. The ADA (American Dental Association) has approved the use of electric toothbrushes, and has determined that their oscillating or rotating heads provide more effective cleaning action than “regular” toothbrushes.
The following basic guide will aid you in practicing proper brushing techniques:
- Begin with the toothbrush at an approximate 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums.
- Gently brush the gum-line and teeth, using small, circular motions.
- Do not apply heavy pressure to “scrub” the teeth. Excessive pressure and scrubbing may cause damage to gums and tooth enamel.
- Be sure to clean every surface of each tooth—tongue side, cheek-side, and chewing surfaces. Focus especially on the surfaces of the back teeth, where it’s more difficult to reach all surfaces.
- When brushing the chewing surfaces, use back and forth strokes.
- Don’t forget to brush the tongue, as fungi, food and debris may adhere to it, as well.
Proper Flossing technique
Flossing is an effective way to remove plaque and particles from the interdental regions (spaces between the teeth). Flossing is especially important for the prevention periodontal disease, as it helps to limit the depth of the gum pockets (sulcus). Since it is difficult to reach the interdental regions with a toothbrush, dental floss should be used to cleanse those spaces on a daily basis. There is a wide variety of types and even flavors of floss available. These minor details are not relevant to the effectiveness of flossing—but select floss that you find pleasant to use, and that is easy for you to handle.
The following steps will serve as your basic guide for proper flossing:
- Cut a section of floss to a convenient length—many people prefer about 18 inches.
- Wrap one end of your floss around the middle finger of your right hand, the other end around the middle finger of the left hand, then adjust it to position your hands about 2to3 inches apart.
- Insert the floss gently between two, teeth working it toward the gum line.
- Wrap the floss into a C-shape around each individual tooth then gently slide it beneath the gum line.
- Move the floss carefully up and down several times on each tooth to remove interdental debris, food particles and plaque.
- Be careful not to “pop” the floss in and out between the teeth. Doing so is likely to cut or irritate the gums and may cause inflammation.
If you are unsure about proper cleaning methods, your dentist or dental hygienist will be happy to answer your questions about brushing and flossing.