Using proper brushing technique is crucial, and not only to your oral health. It has been proven proper brushing decreases plaques on the teeth and improves breath, obviously, but it also performs many other acts ‘behind the scenes’. With proper plaque removal, you could decrease your cavity risk, decrease your risk of obtaining or worsening periodontal diseases, and naturally, increase your self-confidence! However, the simple act of proper brushing could also reduce the possibility of systemic diseases such as Diabetes, Heart disease, respiratory diseases, and even stroke! But I will come back to those topics at another time. For now, I will be focusing on prevention through brushing!
Although brushing may seem like a fairly simple task there are actually proper and improper ways to perform brushing techniques, it changes for adults or children. It also varies if you have an electronic toothbrush or a manual “regular” brush.
For a manual toothbrush, it is always recommended that you use a SOFT bristle brush, and be gentle! I know, most people don’t want to use a soft bristle because many people are convinced it does not remove all of the plaque build up. I PROMISE IT DOES, well, as long as you’re brushing properly. I do, however, tend to be biased towards an electronic brush. I am biased because I have used both, I have seen patients who start with the manual and transfer to the electronic. I have seen numerous cases of dramatic improvement, in most situations.
I personally LOVE my electric brush. It definitely took me a while to get used to; like a month… I didn’t start to use it until I was in dental hygiene school and HATED it at first. I didn’t like the way it felt. I didn’t like the way it sounded. I didn’t like that it actually forced me to brush for a WHOLE TWO MINUTES, and I especially did not like that it was so expensive. But I used it because everyone around me insisted it was better. I got used to it. Now I use it even while on vacation. I take it EVERYWHERE. Well, not to the grocery store, but at least on overnight stays.
Anyway back to the main topic, brushing. First, When using any toothbrush, manual or electronic, like I said previously, ALWAYS USE A SOFT BRISTLE BRUSH. The purpose of a soft bristle is to decrease the risk of damaging tissue, along with tooth structures. Simply explained, using a medium or hard bristle brush along with improper brushing can create a sort of crevice along the gum crevice of the teeth.
Notice the picture…
The crevice is not normally painful but it can create sensitivity in some situations. It also decreases the integrity of the teeth. The teeth are shaped similar to an hourglass, coincidently, the skinniest part of the ‘hourglass’ or tooth, in your case, becomes the weakest. This area is where the teeth suffer the most from abrasion (or being sanded down from aggressive brushing) where the crevice is located.
Secondly, although it may sound counterintuitive, brushing all of the surfaces of the mouth is important. Bacteria are everywhere, and you want the mouth to be as clean as possible. Toothpaste is also important, but certainly not the star of the show. For the most part, using the toothpaste that you like the taste of is your best bet, just make sure to stay away from abrasives such as charcoal or baking soda.
Next, the main event, performing the act of brushing your teeth. With a manual brush, place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush. I personally prefer the brush to be wetted prior with water, but that is your choice. Then start brushing. I recommend starting a routine with the direction of brushing you would like, for example, I always start in the top left, and move to the other side. Move to the bottom left, then bottom right. The brush should always be angled or pointed toward the gums, hence being gentle is key.
The red arrow here indicates that you want to perform a ‘sweeping’ motion. This means NOT brushing back and forth, or ‘side to side’. The side to side actions can cause the crevices to be formed quickly.
You also may want to brush in small circles. This is alright also. Many people find it easier to do small circles than a sweeping motion, either is alright. There is an image that helps explain what I mean. Notice for image ‘4’ below, the back or tongue sides of the teeth you should turn the brush to a vertical direction. After turning the brush, use an up and down motion, this will remove the most amount of plaque and bacteria.
Finally, make sure to brush ALL SURFACES. The cheek side, the biting side, the side your tongue rests against while you have a closed mouth. So many of my patients complain that “the back of my teeth always seems to build up the fastest“. This is typical and expected but you don’t want to just assume it will be there indefinitely. Brushing after meals, rinsing if you don’t have the time or resources to brush after lunch, making sure to brush morning and night and all incredibly important. Making sure your teeth are clean throughout the day is YOUR responsibility, not your hygienists. Certainly, dental hygienists do what they do because we love it. and we truly do want to help you be your best, but it is not so simple.
Obtaining optimal oral health is a team effort for you and your dental providers. If you decide you don’t want to brush, like I stated previously, causes damage such as decay, disease, pain, and unpleasant breath. If you are worried about not brushing properly, and potentially causing damage, talk to your oral health care provider to help determine your best options.
As always, If you have any questions, or concerns don’t be afraid to post a comment or send an email! I am always happy to answer your burning dental questions. Have a great day, and don’t forget to smile today!