Are you brushing correctly?



The most common question my patients ask me at the clinic is "I brush twice a day, but why are my teeth are still so dirty?" It may sound harsh when I say "It's because you are not brushing correctly," but that unfortunately is the bitter truth. 

This made me realise that a surprisingly large number of people are not aware of the correct brushing technique and so I thought to myself that since so many people I meet have this question, why not address this on my blog so I can reach many more and maybe help them understand what they could be doing wrong.

Brushing your teeth is an important part of your dental care routine. For a healthy mouth and smile it is recommended that you:
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a medium-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth allowing you to reach all areas easily.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth and older brushes can harbor bacteria.
  • Make sure to use a fluoridated toothpaste.
The correct brushing technique according to the American Dental Association : 
  • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
  • Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
  • Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
  • It is necessary to brush all the surfaces of all the teeth.
Be sure to clean the surface of your tongue too, to remove harmful bacteria and freshen breath.

Besides brushing you also need to make sure of doing the following : 
  • Clean between teeth daily once a day with a floss preferably at night. Tooth decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. This helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
  • Eat a balanced diet that limits sugary beverages and snacks.
  • See your dentist every 6 months prevention and treatment of oral disease and dental cleanups.
Another question I am repeatedly asked is, "why do my gums bleed even though I brush twice a day?" 

First thing that needs to be understood is that healthy gums do not bleed. Bleeding gums indicate that there is an underlying problem that is causing the gums to swell and in turn bleed. The most likely culprit is plaque and tartar. Gums need a clean tooth surface to adhere to, if the tooth is covered with tartar, the gums get irritated and swell and bleed easily. Our natural reaction to bleeding gums is to stop brushing that area to prevent it from bleeding further. But that only adds to the problem, as more tartar accumulates and causes further damage. A proper brushing technique, flossing everyday and 6 monthly dental cleanups are imperative to maintain healthy gums.

A few things I have repeatedly noticed at my clinic are : 
  • Most people tend to ignore the areas of the teeth that are not visible to them i.e. the inner surfaces of teeth and that's where we notice most of the stain and tartar buildup.
  • Most people are lost in thought while brushing and subconsciously, either brush too hard thereby damaging the enamel, or don't apply enough pressure and miss areas of brushing.
  • The ideal brushing time is 2 minutes, twice a day, but that is usually not adhered to.
  • A very high number of people do not clean their tongues! It is a must to clean your tongue every morning.
  • Mouthwash cannot replace brushing, no matter how fresh you may feel after the use of mouthwash.
And last but not the least, almost every patient has asked me "which toothpaste should I use?" Any age appropriate, fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the Indian Dental Association is good enough! 

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