February 3, 2017

Brush-losophy: Everything You Need to Know about Brushing

Brushing your teeth properly is the first and most important step in your dental hygiene. Not only does it provide a beautiful smile with shiny teeth, adequate brushing is also absolutely essential when it comes to dental health and preventing some of the greatest threats to your dental health.
The most common occurrence is of course dental cavities. The main cause of tooth decay is plaque, which is in fact bacteria that constantly forms on our teeth. The reason why we need to brush and floss every day is to remove plaque, because bacteria that are naturally present in plaque react with sugar in the foods we eat and produce acids that can attack and weaken tooth enamel. Eroding enamel leaves the teeth unprotected, making it possible for cavities to develop more easily.
Poor oral hygiene also causes periodontitis.

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. The consequences are tooth loss and other health problems, such as an increased risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, respiratory problems and asthma. However, periodontitis is preventable and proper oral hygiene is the key to success! So, if you are wondering how to brush properly in order to maintain a beautiful, healthy smile and avoid these dreaded complications, here are the answers!
Many people ask how, how often and when to brush and floss. It is recommended to brush at least twice a day – in the morning and in the evening, before bedtime. Ideally we should brush after every meal in order to remove the remaining food particles from our mouth, but not immediately afterwards. Why is that so? Dental enamel actually becomes softer after eating one of these foods or drinking one of these drinks for at least half an hour afterwards. Brushing during this time may actually make things worse by wearing away the weakened enamel. Fortunately it should harden again within an hour so it is advisable to brush your teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush then. If it is impossible to brush after the meal, make sure you at least rinse with some water. You should also floss daily using dental floss and rinse your mouth with mouthwash to complete the process.

Toothbrushes are made with soft, medium and hard bristles. Many dentists recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush with nylon bristles because they are gentle and thus less likely to damage teeth enamel and gums. When it comes to size, an adequate toothbrush should have a small head on the toothbrush, covering two to three teeth at a time. The handle of the toothbrush should be comfortable to hold. Apply a small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste and brush using gentle, circular motion. Cover the entire tooth. Always hold your toothbrush at a 45°angle so that the bristles are positioned to clean between the teeth and gums. By cleaning above and beneath the gum line you will avoid discoloration, cavities and gum disease. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three months or when it begins to show wear. Also change your toothbrush after a cold, since the bristles collect germs that can cause reinfection.

Everyone – and by this we mean everyone – children, teenagers, adults and seniors – needs to spend about two minutes brushing their teeth. If necessary, use a timer. The first time you use one, you will be surprised how drastically under these 2 minutes you are.
Our advice is to divide your mouth into four sections, and brush each section for 30 seconds:

  • Clean the outer parts of your teeth
  • Clean the inner parts of your teeth
  • Clean the chewing parts of your teeth
  • Brush your tongue for fresher breath

When brushing, it is extremely important to take your time, even when you are in a hurry in the morning or tired and sleepy in the evening. Your teeth and gums will be thankful. It is important that you use toothpaste that suits your condition. Nowadays there is a wide variety of toothpaste for many conditions, such as tooth sensitivity, cavity-protection, teeth whitening, periodontitis, etc. Toothpaste should also have fluoride – the key ingredient for fighting cavities.
It is also very important not to eat or drink anything after your brush in the evening because once we go to sleep, we swallow considerably less than during the day, so it is harder for the mouth to stay bacteria-free. A thorough before-bed brushing can make your smile bright and ensure pearly white teeth, healthy gums and fresh breath.
Electric toothbrush – yes or no?
An electric toothbrush is also a good option for a thorough clean and many people nowadays opt for an electric toothbrush due to its many advantages. Some studies have shown that an electric toothbrush removes more plaque than a manual toothbrush. That is because with an electric toothbrush you don’t have to worry about the angle you hold the toothbrush at, you only guide it across your mouth, including the outer, inner and chewing surfaces, as well as the places in your mouth that are hard to reach. With an electric toothbrush you are carefree about how hard you brush, since they protect you from excessive brushing and applying too much pressure on your teeth. Also, some electric toothbrushes may have integrated timers that will help ensure that you brush for two minutes. All in all, the electric toothbrush takes a lot of work out of brushing your teeth.
If you are indecisive which one to choose – the manual or the electric kind, one thing is for sure, both manual and electric toothbrush will clean your teeth. So this brings us to finances and practicality. If the price is an issue, then a manual toothbrush may be a better solution. Electric toothbrushes are more expensive and some more than $100. In addition to the initial cost of the electric toothbrush, you will have to buy replacement heads every three or four months. Plus, the electric toothbrush needs batteries. However, if you travel a lot, it may be complicated to bring along an electric toothbrush.

Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is a major issue, mainly caused by inadequate brushing. People experience it when eating ice cream or drinking hot beverages. It is because the soft dentine underneath the tooth enamel is exposed and consequently the tooth becomes overly sensitive. Other symptoms of tooth sensitivity include sharp and temporary pain or discomfort in the tooth, pain caused by cold or hot, sweet or acidic foods and drinks, as well as pain caused while brushing or flossing.

Some of the causes of tooth sensitivity are:

  • Toothbrush abrasion – if you are brushing too hard, tooth enamel can become thinner, and therefore the exposed dentine becomes sensitive.
  • Dental erosion – acidic foods and drinks destroy enamel. Consequently, the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to tooth sensitivity.
  • Receding gums – gum recession causes the roots to become exposed and thus more sensitive.
  • Tooth grinding – it can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, which makes the teeth sensitive.
  • Excessive plaque and decay – due to inadequate tooth hygiene and excessive plaque, tooth enamel becomes worn away, which leads to toothache caused by tooth sensitivity.
  • A cracked tooth or filling – if your tooth/filling is cracked or chipped, extremely cold or hot foods and beverages may cause tooth discomfort.
  • Tooth bleaching – some patients suffer from toothache caused by tooth sensitivity after having their teeth bleached. It is advisable to consult your dentist before having a bleaching treatment.
  • After a dental procedure – it is not unusual to have some sensitivity after treating a root canal, or after placing a crown. However, if your sensitivity last for a longer period of time, you should consult your dentist because it could be an infection.
  • The excessive consumption of acidic foods and beverages (carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, pickled food, yoghurt, wine).

However, tooth sensitivity is treatable. Some of the patients solve their problems by using toothpaste specially developed for sensitive teeth. On the other hand, if the toothache and discomfort continue, you should see your dentist. After examining your teeth, he will recommend the most suitable treatment. He may treat the affected teeth with special products that relieve sensitivity or with fluoride gels and fluids. If this still does not help, your dentist may cover exposed dentine by sealing or filling around the tooth. In very serious cases might recommend a root canal, which is actually the most effective tooth sensitivity treatment.
If you still have not experience tooth sensitivity, here is how to prevent sensitive teeth. First and foremost, brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes using a soft- bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Never brush your teeth from side to side. If you experience discomfort while brushing with cold water, try to use warm water instead. Secondly, limit foods and drinks that contain sugar, as well as fizzy and acidic drinks. Thirdly, if you grind your teeth, ask your dentist if a mouth guard at night may be an option for you. Furthermore, if you are thinking about having your teeth bleached, consult your dentist if sensitivity may be a side effect in your case. Needless to say, in order to minimize the risk of tooth sensitivity, visit your dentist regularly.

To prevent tooth sensitivity, remember the following tips:

  • Be gentle to your teeth and gums. Never brush too aggressively.
  • Limit acidic, sugary and starchy foods and drinks.
  • Trust your teeth whitening treatment to an experienced dental professional.
  • See your dentist regularly.
  • Do all of the above and always remember to treat your teeth with love and care.

Brushing is the simplest and the best way to get a beautiful smile and prevent dental complications. All you need is a toothbrush – a manual or an electric one – take your pick, a suitable toothpaste and a proper technique. Needless to say, regular dental check-ups are also an essential part of a proper dental hygiene. By doing as pointed out above, you will greatly reduce the chance of developing dental problems.


Henderson Dentist Dr. George Harouni

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