Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste not only helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease, it can also prevent bad breath.
A toothbrush with a medium head is best, so you can move it around your mouth better. The bristles should be either soft or medium as you run less of a risk of damaging your teeth and gums by brushing to hard.
We recommend that you floss your teeth as part of you oral care routine. Flossing your teeth helps remove plaque and bacteria from between your teeth and from under your gumline helping you in the battle against tooth decay and gum disease. It can be tricky to get used to at first, get your dentist or hygienist to show you.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, just like tooth decay. If the plaque isn’t removed with brushing, flossing or a mouth rinse, it can get under the gum line and attack the gums, making them red and puffy. You may also notice some bleeding when you brush your teeth.
If left, the gum disease can cause serious problems. The gum may start to come away from the tooth, creating ‘pockets’ around it where even more plaque can gather. Over time, the plaque will begin eating away at the bone which supports the tooth, which will mean you have to loose teeth.
In some cases gum disease can be treated easily by a dentist, although more severe cases may require further treatment. Remember the best way to reduce gum disease is by looking after your mouth well, so don’t forget to ask your dentist or Hygienist for tips on how best to brush your teeth. One thing your dentist is likely to do is to scale your teeth. This removes the hardened plaque – known as tartar or calculus – from the tooth, especially behind your teeth and just below the gum line.
If you have advanced gum disease, your dentist may advise that you have a longer, more intensive treatment. This is known as root planing or curretage, and is basically an extension of the more usual scale and polish. The dentist – or hygienist – will give your teeth a really deep clean, going below the gum line and clearing any pockets of plaque.
Why is brushing important?
Daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth is important because it removes plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed, it continues to build up, feeding on the food debris left behind and causing tooth decay and gum disease.
How can plaque cause decay?
When you eat food containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth. After this happens many times, the tooth enamel can break down forming a hole or cavity.
How can plaque cause gum disease?
Plaque can harden into something called calculus another name for it is ‘tartar’. As calculus forms near the gumline, the plaque underneath releases poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected.
If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and healthy teeth may be lost. Gum disease is the biggest cause of tooth loss in adults and can lead to dentures, bridges or dental implants.
How can I prevent gum disease?
It is important to remove plaque and food debris from around your teeth, as this will stop your gums from swelling and becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can develop into tartar, which can only be removed by the dentist or hygienist. It is important to keep up your regular appointments so that your teeth can have a thorough cleaning if they need it.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
Gum disease (gingivitis) will show itself as red, swollen gums that bleed when brushed or flossed. Many people are alarmed when they notice this bleeding and will then brush more gently, if at all. It is important that you continue to clean regularly and firmly in order to fight the condition.
Which type of toothbrush should I use?
Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to recommend a toothbrush to you. However, adults should choose a small to medium size brush with soft to medium multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles or ‘filaments’. The head should be small enough to get into all parts of the mouth: especially the back of the mouth where cleaning can be difficult. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of filaments.
You can now get more specialised toothbrushes. For instance, people with sensitive teeth can now use softer bristled brushes. There are also smaller headed toothbrushes for those people with crooked or irregular teeth. Some people find it difficult to hold a toothbrush, for example because they have Parkinson’s disease or a physical disability. There are now toothbrushes, which have large handles and angled heads to make them easier to use.
How often should I change my toothbrush?
Worn-out toothbrushes cannot clean your teeth properly and may damage your gums. It is important to change your toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if the filaments become worn. When filaments become splayed, they do not clean properly.
How should I brush?
A Brushing removes plaque and food particles from the inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth.
Here is one method of removing plaque:
- Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth and angle against the gumline. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of each individual tooth.
- Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against the gumline.
- Use the same method on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.
- Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small circular strokes with the toe (the front part) of the brush.
- Brushing your tongue will help freshen your breath and will clean your mouth by removing bacteria.
How often should I brush my teeth?
Be sure to brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, more often if your dentist recommends it. If you keep getting discomfort or bleeding after brushing go to see your dentist about it.