Cleanings & Prevention
How to Properly Brush & Floss

Brushing and flossing are of paramount importance to oral hygiene.  Though bi-annual professional dental cleanings remove plaque, tartar, and debris, excellent homecare methods are equally valuable.  Proper brushing and flossing can enhance the health of the mouth, make the smile sparkle, and prevent serious diseases.

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 phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods.
  • Prevention of periodontal disease – Periodontal disease is a serious, progressive condition which can cause tooth loss, gum recession, and jawbone recession. 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 and calculus (tartar) from the surface of the tooth using a toothbrush and from the interdental areas using dental floss, is an excellent way to stave off periodontal problems. 
  • Prevention of halitosis – Bad breath or halitosis is usually caused by old food particles on or between the teeth.  These food particles can be removed with regular brushing and flossing, leaving the mouth healthier, and breath smelling fresher.
  • Prevention of staining – Staining, or yellowing, of teeth can be caused by a wide variety of factors such as smoking, coffee, and tea.  The more regularly these staining agents are removed from the teeth using brushing and flossing techniques, the less likely it is that the stains will become permanent.

Toothbrush Technique - Everyone knows about the importance of brushing, but most people still use a fairly random technique! They usually start in the front and end somewhere in the back, brushing at random and often missing areas on the way. Establishing a pattern when you brush is extremely important for the daily removal of plaque. Flossing and regular visits to the dental office will complete the job.

When you are brushing your teeth, it’s also important not to miss your gums. Adults, in particular, need to concentrate on the gum pockets, as this is where plaque accumulates and periodontal disease develops.

Using a soft, round-tipped toothbrush, always start at the same place in your mouth and brush from tooth to tooth. A good place to start is with the inside upper back teeth. Place your brush at a 45-degree angle so it’s half on the gum and half on the tooth. Gently vibrate the toothbrush bristles in a forward and backward motion, working some of the bristles under the gum. This movement allows you to clean the surfaces under the edge of the gum. Make sure not to scrub!

Once you’re done with the inside of the upper teeth, move to the outside. Start at the back and move to the front, again keeping the brush at a 45-degree angle. After you’ve cleaned the inside and outside surfaces, move to the tops (biting surfaces) of your teeth. These are cleaned with a back and forth motion, keeping the toothbrush bristles directly on top of the teeth.

Don’t forget to brush the insides, outsides and tops of both your upper and lower teeth. It is important not to rush your brush! A proper brushing should take at least two to three minutes to complete. If a more complete or longer brushing is new to you, there might be some bleeding and soreness of the gums. This is normal, but if it’s persistent, a visit to our office may be necessary.

Common Flossing Mistakes

Not Flossing - If dentists had to choose between packing a toothbrush or floss on a vacation, they’d probably go for the floss. Flossing removes bacteria from between teeth and below the gumline, where you are most likely to get a cavity.

Not Flossing Regularly - Flossing needs to be a daily ritual. We all miss the odd day, but tartar can form in as little as two days!

Flossing too Quickly - You need to count ten short, rapid, up-and-down strokes on each tooth. That’s a couple of seconds per tooth, and with 28 teeth, you should be spending at least two minutes per flossing session.

Missing the Gum Line - The gum line is an important area to clean, and floss should be moved all the way under the gum.

Not Removing Plaque - Flossing is not just about removing food particles, it’s about scraping off that film of bacteria that is between your teeth: plaque. Scrape the tooth clean of that film.

Not Flossing with Enough Pressure - Removing plaque is tougher than you might think. Firmly press the floss against the tooth surface and move it up and down. If you’re doing it right, you should hear a squeaking sound.

Flossing Only one Tooth - Don’t just pop the floss in the space between your teeth each tooth demands attention! Push against one tooth and pull against the other, covering the whole surface area between the teeth.

If you have any questions about the correct way to brush or floss, please contact our office.