Most of us feel like we master the art of brushing our teeth before we even begin kindergarten. But we would all be mistaken! As simple a task as it seems, it turns out that very few of us actually brush our teeth as well as we could, and should. Thankfully, where there are mistakes, there are ways to fix them, and Dr. Scott Edwards is here to tell you how!
1. Choose wisely.
I know that there are an almost endless supply of toothbrushes to choose from, so where do you even begin? One of the most important aspects of a good toothbrush is soft bristles. They need to be able to bend and get in under the gums. Some people believe that the harder the bristles on a brush, the better job they’ll do cleaning the teeth, but this isn’t really true. Hard bristles can actually wear down your tooth structure, and soft bristles clean more effectively, anyway.
You’ll want to pay attention to the size of the toothbrush as well. Just like mouths, brushes come in all sizes, and will also have different handles and angles. Some have more flexibility than others. Pick one that feels like a good fit for both your mouth and your hand, but remember that the bristles are the most important part, since these are what remove bacterial and loosen plaque from your teeth and gums.
2. Take it easy on your teeth.
Just like with bristles, when it comes to brushing your teeth, harder isn’t better. Try and think of it as more like a tooth massage -- plaque is soft and loose, so there’s no reason to scrub your teeth like shower tile. Gently tilt the brush up and down to get the inside of your front teeth, then move to the inner surface of the teeth, before finally getting to the chewing surfaces and the outside of your teeth. And don’t forget to brush your tongue! This method will catch any debris and bacteria.
3. Slow doooown.
We all know we should be brushing at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time. But when you’re running late for school or work, or your bed's calling your name, it can be really tempting to cut your brushing short. Resist the temptation! It takes about two minutes to really reach all areas of your mouth, and skipping any is an invitation for bacteria and plaque to hang out. Use the timer function on your phone, or listen all the way through one of your favorite songs to guarantee you’re giving your mouth the TLC it deserves.
4. Let it go, let it go....
I get it - a good toothbrush is hard to find! When you find a favorite, it can sometimes be hard to give it up. But when you begin to see changes in the bristles, such as discoloration or bending, it’s time to let the brush go. Frayed bristles are powerless against plaque, so be sure and change your toothbrush out every 3-4 months at least. Don’t share it with anyone else, either, and keep it out in the open air so that mold and bacteria won’t grow on it when it’s wet.
5. You go back and forth.
It’s probably the most common brushing bungle - using a left to right motion on your teeth. Remember, you want to massage, not scrub. Back and forth, side to side, not only won’t get your teeth clean the way you want it to, it can also actively cause damage. Instead, start from the gum, and use gentle, circular, up and down motions.
6. Don’t forget the gums.
Bacteria have a tendency to hang out in those cozy spaces where your tooth meets your gum, which just so happens to be an area we often miss when brushing. This is why I recommend the bendy bristled toothbrush! You need a brush that’s able to reach just under that gum area to get it good and clean. Angle your brush about 45 degrees against the gum line and use gentle circle motions before moving on to your teeth as a whole.
7. Don’t dive in too soon.
It can be tempting sometimes to rush into brushing your teeth right after a meal, particularly if it’s been a pungent one! While this is better than not brushing at all, you might actually want to hold off for about 15-20 minutes. Eating produces acid in your mouth, and brushing is abrasive. This combination can cause the acid to erode away tooth enamel over time. Waiting the recommended time after a meal gives your saliva a chance to do its job in ridding your mouth of acid before moving in with the brush.
8. Make it count.
As I’ve said before, it’s important to brush at least twice a day, at least two minutes each time. But perhaps of equal importance is making sure one of those times is exceptional. Brush, floss, mouthwash - the whole shebang. Really getting in there and stirring up bacteria at least once every 24 hours or so keeps them far less productive. If routine brushing of your teeth is the $2 basic car wash, consider this the $5 deluxe wash complete with waxing. It’s well worth the extra effort!
Beyond brushing in Memphis with Scott Edwards DDS
No matter how meticulous you are with your toothbrushing regime, sometimes dental issues can crop up that are out of your control. If you’re in the Memphis area, and find yourself in need of cosmetic or family dentistry, get in touch with us today to find out more about the services we offer at our two conveniently located offices. We’re here to make you smile!