Proper Brushing & Flossing
Good oral care is part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to keep your teeth and gums in good health. A simple routine of daily teeth cleaning, good eating habits and regular dental visits can help prevent tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease.
What causes tooth decay and gum disease?
Your teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque (sounds like PLAK). After a meal or snack, these bacteria convert the sugar in foods into acids. These acids attack the enamel, the tooth’s hard outer layer. Repeated attacks can cause the enamel to break down and lead to cavities.
If you brush twice a day and floss once a day, you can remove most of the harmful plaque and bacteria. But if plaque stays on the teeth, it will eventually harden into tartar. It is harder to brush and floss when tartar builds up near the gumline.
Plaque that is not removed can also irritate and inflame your gums, making them swell or bleed. This is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. The good news is that gingivitis can be reversed with professional dental cleaning and good oral hygiene at home.
If gum disease is left untreated, it can cause your gums to pull away from the teeth. Pockets or spaces can form between the teeth and gums. These pockets can become infected. In advanced stages of gum disease, bone loss can occur and teeth may become loose, fall out or have to be pulled.
You can prevent both tooth decay and gum disease by always remembering to brush twice a day and floss daily. It is much easier and less expensive to prevent disease and decay than to treat them!
Brushing & Flossing Children's Teeth
Children’s hands and mouths are different than adults. They need to use toothbrushes designed for children. Both adults and children should use brushes with soft, rounded bristles for gentle cleaning. Change to a new brush about every three months.
Wipe infant’s teeth gently with a moist, soft cloth or gauze square. As babies grow, use a child’s toothbrush with a small, pea-sized dab of toothpaste. By age two or three begin to teach your child to brush. You will still need to brush where they miss. Dentists and hygienists often advise children to use a gentle, short, back and forth motion to remove plaque. When children are older, they can switch to this method.
Hold the brush at a 45 degrees angle towards teeth and gums. Move brush back and forth with short strokes, about a half tooth wide.
- Brush the inside and outside surfaces of each tooth, top and bottom.
- Hold the brush flat on top of the teeth and brush the chewing surfaces.
- Gently brush the tongue to remove debris.
- Floss between teeth daily.
When To Begin Brushing
Once your child’s teeth begin erupting, you can begin cleaning them by wiping them with a moist washcloth. As your child gets more teeth, you can begin to use a soft child’s toothbrush. You should use just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (such as Baby OraGel) until your child is able to spit it out (too much fluoride can stain their teeth).
For most toddlers, getting them to brush their teeth can be quite a challenge. Some suggestions for making tooth brushing less of a battle can include:
- Let your child brush your teeth at the same time.
- Let your child pick out a few toothbrushes with his favorite characters and giving him a choice of which one he wants to use each time (this will give him some feeling of control over the situation).
- Let your child brush his own teeth first (you will likely have to “help out”).
- Let your child some children’s books about tooth brushing.
- Have everyone brush their teeth at the same time.
To help your child understand the importance of brushing, it can be sometimes fun and helpful to let them eat or drink something that will “stain“ their teeth temporarily and then brush them clean.
It can also be a good idea to create a “tooth brushing routine”. And stick to the same routine each day.
What are some tips for brushing teeth properly?
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay. Fluoride (FLOOR-ide) is a mineral that helps make tooth enamel stronger. There is more than one way to brush your teeth, so it’s a good idea to ask your dentist which one to use. Here are a few tips to help you start a good routine:
Why do I need to clean between my teeth?
Even if you brush twice a day, there are places your toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between teeth and under the gumline. Your dentist or hygienist can show you the right way to floss. It may feel clumsy at first, but don’t give up. It takes time to get the hang of it. The following suggestions may help:
If you haven’t been flossing, you may experience sore or bleeding gums for the first five or so days that you floss. This should stop once the plaque is broken up and the bacteria are removed. If bleeding does not stop, see your dentist.
If you have trouble handling floss, you may wish to try a floss holder or another type of interdental cleaning aid. Interdental cleaners include narrow brushes, picks, or sticks used to remove plaque from between teeth. Your dentist or hygienist can tell you how to use these special cleaners.
There are so many dental products. How do I know what works best?
- Choose products with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. The ADA Seal on a product is your assurance that it has met ADA standards for safety and effectiveness. Look for the ADA Seal on fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, interdental cleaners, oral irrigators and mouth rinse.
- Look for a toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride helps keep tooth enamel strong and can aid in repairing the early stages of decay. If you have sensitive teeth, your dentist may suggest using special toothpaste.
- Select a toothbrush that feels comfortable in your hand and in your mouth, and use it twice a day. All ADA-accepted toothbrushes – manual or powered – earned the ADA Seal because they can remove plaque above the gumline and reduce gingivitis. For children, choose a child-sized toothbrush.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t clean your teeth properly. Children’s toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently because they can wear out sooner. If you have hand, arm, or shoulder problems that limit movement, you may find a powered toothbrush easier to use.
- Oral irrigating devices use a stream of water to remove food particles around the teeth. They can be helpful for people who wear braces or dentures. However, an oral irrigator is meant to enhance, not replace, regular brushing and flossing.
- Check mouthwash labels closely. Some mouthrinses just cover up odors; others actually kill germs and reduce plaque. Some mouth rinses have fluoride. If you are constantly using a breath freshener for bad breath, see your dentist. In some cases, bad breath may be a sign of poor health.
- Ask your dentist or hygienist for product tips. People’s needs may differ, and your dental team can point you to products for your specific needs.