Oral Hygiene

Proper Brushing

Correct tooth brushing, mouth cleansing, and flossing should be everyone’s defense against periodontal disease.

Proper brushing takes at least two minutes — that’s right, 120 seconds! Most adults do not come close to brushing that long. To get a feel for the time involved, try using a stopwatch or egg timer.

Most adults do not come close to brushing that long. To get a feel for the time involved, try using a stopwatch or egg timer.

Most adults do not come close to brushing long enough.

Use a soft-bristled brush that fits the size and shape of your mouth. Place the brush where the gum meets the tooth, with bristles resting along each tooth at a 45-degree angle.

To properly brush your teeth, use short, gentle strokes, paying extra attention to the gumline, hard-to-reach back teeth and areas around fillings, crowns or other restoration. Concentrate on thoroughly cleaning each section as follows:

  • Clean the outer surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth
  • Clean the inner surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth
  • Clean the chewing surfaces
  • For fresher breath, be sure to brush your tongue, to help remove bacteria, too

Flossing should finish the process. A mouthwash may also be used.

If brushing after each meal is not possible, rinsing the mouth with water after eating can reduce bacteria by 30%.

How to Choose a Toothpaste

The objective of a good toothpaste is to reduce the development of plaque and eliminate periodontal-causing microorganisms without destroying the organisms that are important for a healthy mouth. All brands should show ADA approval. Even a good toothpaste, however, cannot be delivered past 3 mm below the gum line, where periodontitis develops.

Toothpastes are a combination of abrasives, binders, colors, detergents, flavors, fluoride, humectants, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. Avoid highly abrasive toothpastes, especially for individuals whose gums have receded.

Fluoride toothpastes are proven to prevent cavities. Consult your dentist or hygienist about your oral health and your greatest needs. Then look for products within that category (for example, within the tartar control brands or within the desensitizing toothpaste brands). If you have a tooth sensitivity problem avoid the use of whitening toothpastes.

Flossing

The use of dental floss, either waxed or unwaxed, is critical in cleaning between the teeth where the toothbrush bristles cannot reach. In spite of this, nearly two-thirds of people do not floss.

To floss correctly, the following steps may be helpful:

  • Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around the middle finger of one hand and the rest around the other middle finger.
  • Hold the floss between the thumbs and forefingers and gently guide and rub it back and forth between the teeth.
  • When it reaches the gum line, the floss should be curved around each tooth and slid gently back and forth against the gum.
  • Finally, rub gently up and down against the tooth. Repeat with each tooth, including the outside of the back teeth.
  • Use a floss that does not shred or break. Avoid a very thin floss, which can cut the gum if brought down with too much force or not guided along the side of the tooth.

A floss threader is an invaluable aid for the person who has bridgework. Made of plastic, it looks like a needle with a huge eye, or loop. A piece of floss is threaded into the loop, which can then be inserted between the bridge and the gum. The floss that is carried through with it can then be used to clean underneath the false tooth or teeth and along the sides of the abutting teeth.

Another handy device for cleaning under bridges is a Proxabrush, which is an interdental cleaner. This is a tiny narrow brush that can be worked in between the natural teeth and around the attached false tooth or teeth.