Do you brush and floss properly?
Proper oral hygiene is essential for healthy teeth and gums. Although the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a professional cleaning twice a year, the best way to ensure clean teeth is thorough daily brushing and flossing to remove food particles, plaque and germs. Follow these steps to make sure you're cleaning correctly.
Brush your teeth in the morning and evening every day, and brush after every meal is ideal. If you find that you can't brush during the day, at least rinse out your mouth with warm water after every meal. Water cleans the mouth and removes food particles and bacteria that can cause plaque. Left untreated, plaque hardens on your teeth, causing such problems as gingivitis.
Toothbrushes come with soft, medium or hard bristles, but to protect teeth enamel, use a soft brush. Alternatively, electric toothbrushes have a rotating head that cleans teeth more effectively, but they are also more expensive than regular toothbrushes. Use the type you are most comfortable with.
You may not be aware of it, but you can brush your teeth without toothpaste using only water. This actually gives you a deeper cleaning because the brush rests directly against the teeth and not against the toothpaste. Many dentists recommend using toothpaste, however, especially fluoride toothpaste. When buying toothpaste, choose one with the ADA seal of approval.
Once you've applied toothpaste to your toothbrush, hold the toothbrush at a right angle to each tooth and brush in a circular motion, as opposed to up and down or sideways. Brush each tooth in this way, starting with either the top or the bottom teeth. Brush the front, back and tops of the teeth. For a good cleaning, brush your teeth for at least two minutes total. Some electric toothbrushes have timers that shut off automatically.
Another essential—and often ignored—part of teeth cleaning is flossing. According to one study, only 10 percent of Americans floss daily, and a study published by the New York State Dental Association found that nearly 40 percent of people do not use proper technique when flossing.
You can use either dental floss or dental tape. Floss also comes in various flavors, waxed or unwaxed. Begin by tearing off a strand of about 18 inches and wrapping it around your fingers. Hold about 2 inches between your thumbs and index fingers. Keeping the floss taut, guide it between the contacts of the lower teeth. Glide the floss using a zigzag motion, contouring it around each tooth. Use a clean section of floss for each tooth and gently slide the floss against the tooth surface and beneath the gum line.
Many of us find traditional flossing cumbersome, so investigate dental floss holders or interdental cleaning devices. You can use a flosser that features a handle similar to toothbrushes, but with a removable, disposable snap-on head containing a piece of floss. Just snap in the head, floss your teeth and throw it away. Keep in mind that you have to buy floss heads to use the flosser.
Whatever your chosen method for flossing, you should floss at least once a day. Use the floss or tape to clean between all of your teeth. This is an effective way to remove any leftover food particles and any plaque from between the teeth.
Follow up your daily teeth cleaning regimen with twice-yearly appointments with your dentist. The better your oral hygiene, the more likely you'll enjoy years of healthy teeth and gums.
- 73 percent of Americans would rather go grocery shopping than floss.
(Additional reporting by Claire Plum, Angie's List Contributor.)