Cleanings & Prevention

Proper Brushing & Flossing Techniques

Brushing and flossing are of paramount importance to oral hygiene. Excellent homecare methods are as just as valuable as regularly professional cleanings that remove plaque, tartar and debris. Proper brushing and flossing improve the health of the mouth, prevent serious diseases and make the smile brighter.

Reasons why proper brushing and flossing are essential:

 Prevention of tooth decay – Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures. Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth. This can easily be prevented by using proper brushing and flossing methods.

 Prevention of periodontal disease – Periodontal disease is a serious, progressive condition which can cause tooth loss, gum recession and loss of bone in the jaw.

Periodontal disease is caused by the toxins found in plaque, and can lead to serious health problems in other parts of the body. Removing plaque from the surface of the tooth using a toothbrush, floss and other interdental tools, is an excellent way to prevent periodontal disease.

 Prevention of halitosis – Halitosis or bad breath is usually caused by bacteria, plaque and old food particles on or between the teeth, or on the tongue that are not properly removed. The plaque, bacteria and food particles can be removed with regular brushing and flossing; leaving the mouth healthier, and the breath smelling fresher.

 Prevention of staining – Staining or the discoloration of teeth can be caused by a wide variety of factors such as diet, coffee, tea or tobacco products. The more regularly these staining agents are removed from the teeth using proper brushing and flossing techniques, the less likely the stains will become permanent.

The Proper Way to Brush

The teeth should be brushed at least twice a day; ideally in the morning and at night before bed.

The ideal toothbrush is small in size with soft, rounded­end bristles. The head of the brush needs to be small enough so it can access all areas of the mouth. The bristles should be soft so they do not cause permanent damage to the gum tissue. It is important to replace your toothbrush every three months to ensure it is effective in removing the plaque and food particles in the mouth.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has given electric toothbrushes their seal of approval; stating that those with rotating or oscillating heads are more effective than other toothbrushes.

Here is a basic guide to proper brushing:

1. Place the toothbrush at a 45­degree angle along the margin where the gums and teeth meet.

2. Use small circular motions to gently brush the gumline and teeth.

3. Do not scrub with a back and forth motion or apply too much pressure to the teeth, as this can damage the gums (recession) and tooth enamel (erosion).

4. Brush all surfaces of every tooth including, cheek­side, tongue­side, and chewing surfaces. Place special emphasis on the surfaces of the back teeth where it is more difficult to reach.

5. Use back and forth strokes to brush the chewing surfaces only.

6. Brush the tongue to remove bacteria, food and debris every time you brush your teeth.

The Proper Way to Floss

Flossing is a great way to remove food and plaque from the interdental regions (between the teeth).

Flossing is an especially important tool for preventing an increase in gum pocket depths, bone loss and periodontal disease. The interproximal regions cannot be thoroughly reached with a toothbrush and should be cleaned with dental floss on a daily basis, or at least once every 24 hours. Choose floss that will be easy and pleasant to use, as the type and flavor are not an important factor.

Here is a basic guide to proper flossing:

1. Cut a piece of floss to around 18 inches long.

2. Wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of the right hand and the other end around the middle finger of the left hand until the hands are 2­3 inches apart.

3. Work the floss gently between the teeth toward the gum line with a back and forth pull.

4. Curve the floss in a C­shape around each individual tooth and carefully slide it up and down beneath the gum line. Once the floss is under the contact point of the teeth do not continue to pull the floss back and forth as this can cut the gums.

5. Carefully move the floss up and down several times to remove interdental plaque and food debris.

6. Do not force the floss in and out between the teeth as this will cut the gums and cause further inflammation.

If you have any questions about this information or about the correct way to brush or floss, please

ask your dentist or dental hygienist.

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