Toothbrushing and flossing

Toothbrushing and flossing

While much of the food we eat is essential for our health and well-being, it can also be a source of peril for our teeth! The reason for this is that the bacteria present in our mouths convert the sugars and starches in our food into acids. These bacteria and acids mix with food particles to form plaque, a sticky film that coats our teeth.

This attacks the teeth and, if it occurs frequently enough, causes the teeth to decay by dissolving the enamel (hard outer casing of the tooth). If left unchecked, it leads to the development of microscopic cavities and the tooth eventually becomes decayed.

Plaque also produces toxins that irritate the gums and cause them to become inflamed and diseased (gingivitis). Over time this can lead to the spread of infection to the bone in the jaw and loss of teeth due to a lack of adequate support from the gum and bone surrounding it (periodontal disease).

Plaque attracts mineral deposits from saliva, causing a build up of a substance known as tartar. Tartar is a hard substance that becomes encrusted on the teeth and a more dangerous type of bacteria builds up within it.

The bacteria that flourish in the mouth are also a source of bad breath, which is caused by the breakdown of food particles into sulphur compounds. It is these compounds which are responsible for the bad odour.

There are a number of ways that these problems can be avoided. Good oral hygiene in the form of regular brushing and flossing is ideal. However, while it sounds simple, it is important to know how to carry these out correctly.

Brushing teeth

Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces and it is important to do so at least twice a day. The shape of your brush should fit your mouth and you should use one with soft, synthetic bristles. Dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush when it becomes splayed, usually every three months.

You should also use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, which helps prevent against decay. It is best to place the toothbrush bristles at a 45 degree angle against the gums and teeth and to brush gently using short strokes.

Ensure that you brush all surfaces of the tooth carefully, taking care not to forget about the gum line as well. Slide the bristle tips under the gums to ensure that any plaque there will be removed.

For the inside surfaces of your front teeth, you should tilt the brush vertically and make several up and down strokes with the tip of the brush. Brushing your tongue will also help to freshen your breath by removing debris and bacteria.

Be careful not to brush the teeth too vigorously or use a brush with very hard bristles as this may cause the gums to recede and may wear away the enamel, leading to the development of very sensitive teeth.

While brushing removes plaque from the teeth, flossing is also very important to remove plaque from between the teeth. It is recommended that you floss your teeth at least once a day. It should only take a couple of minutes and will prove a shrewd investment of time in the long run.

Flossing teeth

When flossing, it helps to have a good grip of the dental floss and to keep it taut between the fingers. Break off several inches of floss and wind it around the middle finger of each hand. Hold the floss between both thumbs and forefingers, leaving about an inch in between.

The floss can then be guided gently between the teeth where you should use a gentle, zig-zag rubbing motion. It should be moved away from the gum using an up and down motion and all teeth should be cleaned in this way using a clean section of floss for each. The gumline can be reached by gently sliding the floss into a C-shape and sliding it into the space between the gum and tooth.

Some people may find that the floss digs into their fingers when flossing but it is available pre-mounted on a small stick if necessary. Some dental flosses also have a tendency to fray or break, which can be avoided by using the waxed variety.

If you have never flossed before or haven’t done it for a while, you may notice a small amount of blood on the floss after you use it. This indicates that your gums are slightly inflamed and in need of regular flossing. You may also notice a white build up on the floss associated with the presence of plaque between your teeth.

While good oral hygiene plays an essential part in the prevention of dental decay and gum disease, regular trips to the dentist are essential to ensure that any problems are detected early.

Back to top