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Even at a young age, we were taught the importance of brushing our teeth after every meal to prevent cavities and tooth decay. Chances are, we were also shown how to brush our teeth by applying gentle, circular motions to keep teeth and gums strong and healthy. But are you doing it right?
Brushing alone is not enough — good dental care requires proper brushing. That means applying the right amount of toothpaste and using correct and safe toothbrushing motions to remove food morsels and clean the teeth thoroughly after meals. You’ll be surprised at how many people still develop cavities and need to undergo dental treatment even if they brush their teeth regularly — and it’s all because they’re not doing it right.
Proper tooth brushing is the first and foremost oral care that you need to practice every day. Learn — or re-learn — some brushing techniques to make sure that you brush your teeth right, and practice these regularly to keep teeth clean, strong, and healthy:
1. Hold the toothbrush properly
Yes, there’s a correct way to hold the toothbrush, and it’s not merely holding it parallel to the mouth. It’s likely that when you learned how to brush your teeth in childhood, you weren’t taught to hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. This allows you to point the bristles where the teeth and gums meet.
2. Apply gentle, circular motions
You may remember this from your childhood, but it helps to be reminded from time to time: use gentle circles to brush your teeth. For best at-home dental care, avoid “scrubbing” the teeth, or brushing horizontally back and forth, as this does not clean every tooth’s surface. Instead, use gentle, circular motions to avoid injuring the gums.
3. Try the Bass or Sulcular technique
One of the most popular toothbrushing techniques recommended for dental care, the Bass method helps prevent and control the spread of gum disease. It involves brushing around and under the gumline where bacteria and plaque accumulate — and often go uncleaned. With this dental care technique, you can reach under the gums to scrub off plaque and prevent them from hardening into tartar and resulting in gum disease.
To practice the Bass or Sulcular techniques, start by placing the toothbrush parallel to the teeth, with the bristles facing the gums. Tilt the toothbrush to a 45-degree angle and move the bristles gently under the gumline using a circular motion, and continue to the next area until you’ve brushed the entire mouth.
Once you’re done, brush the outer surface of the teeth and tongue. To get in between the teeth, hold the toothbrush in a vertical position and use the bristles on the toe side of the brush, and make sure that they reach the gum tissue. That should remove deposits and other debris lodged in between the teeth.
4. Use the Stillman method
Like the Bass technique, the Stillman method cleans the underside and surface of the teeth, as well as the gumline. The critical difference is in removing more debris from in between the teeth by moving the brush towards the chewing surface of the tooth using short, back-and-forth strokes.
Just like the Bass technique, make sure to tilt the toothbrush and brush under the gumline, but pay close attention to the chewing surface where food and cavity-causing bacteria come into most contact with the teeth.
5. Practice the Charter technique
The Charter method was designed specifically for people with spaces between their teeth, have exposed root surfaces, or suffer from gum recession and require gum surgery. This dental care technique is also recommended for patients with orthodontic appliances or fixed partial dentures.
To practice the Charter method, start by placing the bristles on the gum line at a 45-degree angle, and point them towards the chewing surface or the crown of the tooth — this is the opposite of the Bass and Stillman techniques. Then, vibrate the toothbrush for 15 to 20 counts using short, circular strokes or small back and forth motions. Make your way around to the rest of your teeth to clean all inner and outer surfaces, including the molars’ chewing surfaces.
6. Use a combination of brushing techniques
While these brushing techniques are all recommended for dental care, different methods may work for different people. You can also ask your dentist for tips to ensure a proper, thorough brushing every time.
What is most important is that you clear all the surfaces of every tooth — and in between teeth. Make sure to roll the bristles towards the chewing surfaces to remove debris stuck between teeth and clean the entire tooth surface. The gentle but effective rolling motion also prevents damage or injury to the sulcus or the area where the teeth and gums meet.
7. Use the right toothbrush
The best dental care you can receive at home is just as good as the tools you use. You can’t expect to brush your teeth properly without the right toothbrush. Opt for brands that have multi-level bristles to remove more plaque in between teeth and from hard-to-reach places.
For optimal comfort and gentle brushing, make sure your toothbrush has soft, rounded bristles that are the right size for your mouth. And most of all, don’t stick it out with an old toothbrush: make it a habit to replace yours every three to four months, as worn or frayed bristles won’t just hurt your gums — they won’t remove enough debris and can even harbour bacteria.
8. Choose a fluoride toothpaste
What are you brushing with? While kids don’t start out brushing with toothpaste, adult teeth need the right type of toothpaste for optimal dental care. But don’t just choose any toothpaste — opt for ones with fluoride, as these are particularly effective at removing plaque-causing bacteria, and keeping your breath minty fresh after every brush.
To learn more about proper brushing techniques and dental care habits recommended by dentists, or to book your next dental cleaning, call Bloor West Smiles Dental in Toronto at 647-691-8363, or contact us here.