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Tooth brushing has been a part of our lives since we can remember. It has become an activity that, for most, seems to be second nature. Brushing your teeth, as with any habit, can become tedious. You may forget the proper way and get sloppy, or may never have learned proper tooth brushing techniques to begin with. Improper tooth brushing technique can lead to many problems, including root and enamel wear, gum recession, cavities, and gum disease .

Tooth Brushing Mistake #1

-Choosing the wrong tooth brush. Not all toothbrushes are the same. Things to consider when choosing the right type of toothbrush include size of head, size of handle, and type of bristles. The head of the toothbrush should be the right size to enable you to reach all tooth surfaces. If you are straining to open wide enough to get the brush into your mouth, having a hard time cleaning around back molars, or banging into other teeth, then the brush is probably too large for you. The handle needs to be comfortable for you to use and fit your hand properly. The bristles should be soft to extra soft. If it the bristles are any harder, you increase surface abrasion.  Abrasion slowly causes wear and damage to your teeth and gums while brushing. As for manual tooth brush vs electric tooth brush, most research shows that electric toothbrushes get the teeth far cleaner than a manual brush, and if used properly, cause less abrasion.

Tooth Brushing Mistake #2

-Not brushing enough. This includes both, time of actual tooth brushing and the times per day you brush. It is recommended that you brush a minimum of twice per day for at least two minutes each time. Many of us do not brush for the recommended amount of time,instead brushing for only 15-30 s, this can definitely lead to insufficient removal of food and plaque bacteria. Brushing after each meal is ideal, removing food particles before they begin to cause problems. Timers can help you spend the correct amount of time, or humming a tune, many electric toothbrushes have an advantage in that many have a built in timer to monitor the time you are tooth brushing. Carrying a spare toothbrush or having one in your desk at work, may help you to brush more frequently.

Tooth Brushing Mistake #3

-Brushing too aggressively. Tooth brushing too vigorously can erode tooth enamel, expose the roots of the teeth, and wear away gum tissue. Erosion causes increased sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweets. Develop the proper tooth brushing technique utilizing the right amount of force to keep your teeth clean. An aggressive tooth brushing technique is difficult to change, especially if you have been doing it this way for a long time. Electric toothbrushes are ideal for changing technique, as you hold them over each tooth, letting the brush do the work, and do not “brush” with them.

Tooth Brushing Mistake #4

-Using improper tooth brushing technique. The tooth brush should be angled at a 45 degree angle and use short strokes when brushing. This will allow you to brush safely but also give yo the ability to remove the plaque at the gum line. The strokes should be soft, going up and down, and circular or vertical. Be sure to brush the outer AND inner surfaces of your teeth along with the chewing surfaces and finally your tongue.

Tooth Brushing Mistake #5

-Not Rinsing? Cleaning your brush. Bacteria will grow on an un-rinsed, wet toothbrush. If you do not rinse, and clean your toothbrush, you will be putting plaque bacteria back in your mouth each time you brush. Rinse and dry your tooth brush after you brush to help remove any leftover toothpaste, and rid of the moist environment that bacteria love. There are many techniques to clean your brush, including UV sanitizers, soap and water, and anti bacterial rinses. Keep your mouth cleaner with a clean, dry toothbrush.

Tooth Brushing Mistake #6

-Not changing your toothbrush regularly. The recommendation from the American Dental Association is to change to a new brush every 3-4 months or sooner if the bristles appear worn.  Research shows us that, as toothbrush bristles splay, their ability to remove plaque decreases significantly. You know how often and how hard you use your brush, which will help you evaluate when it is time for a new brush. Do a visual inspection every so often to ensure the bristles still have their original flexibility. There are even some brushes now that have colored indicators on them to tell you when brushes need changing. You may need to change every 1-2 months if you are a frequent brusher.

Conclusion

Tooth brushing is a very important daily habit. The premise is simple, but the technique is critical to good oral health. It is never too late to learn proper tooth brushing technique. Don’t be shy, ask your hygienist if you are doing it correctly, he/she may have some great pointers for you. The next time you see your dentist  for a dental examination and professional cleaning, take full advantage of their knowledge, and ask questions. You may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome, healthier teeth and gums!

Most kids, will always choose to do the fun activity over the boring one. If the task is not fun it will be rushed through or avoided all together. This can also apply to how well children brush and take care of their teeth. This is one area kids definitely need our guidance to maintain a healthy smile.

The following are four easy ways to encourage your kids to own their smile and at the same time improve their oral health:

1) Make Brushing Fun! - Most dentists recommend brushing for a minimum of two minutes. Two minutes can feel like forever for a kid. To get your child to brush and floss properly, try making Pediatric Dentistrya game out it. Set a timer for two minutes and challenge your child to brush until the timer goes off, or sing twinkle twinkle star twice. Cute, fun toothbrushes are in stores everywhere. Choose one that’s small enough for your child to hold comfortably by his or herself, with a small, rounded head and very soft, polished bristles. I also recommend an electric toothbrush for little ones. Makes it easier to use and makes them feel like big grown ups. Should be replaced every few months, particularly for preschoolers who tend to chew while they brush. For babies, a soft finger toothbrush, or wet washcloth are easiest to use for you and them. Some children’s toothbrushes also have lights that flash or music that plays which serves as a built-in timer. Set the timer again for two minutes for flossing. There are also fun flossers that make it easier to do the best job possible. Another tip would be to brush with your child — Stand side-by-side in front of the bathroom mirror and brush together. Have fun. Let your child mimic your brushing technique. I would also recommend the use of a plaque disclosing solution. This solution will allow you and them to see where the plaque is before brushing and what was missed after brushing. Then you can “help” them remove the last of the plaque. Once the color is gone, the plaque is too!

2) ”But Why??” Explain it all to them – It’s important for kids to know “Why” they are doing things. Brushing and flossing are no different. If they are simply told to do it, it becomes a chore and they will most likely resist. If they realize it’s a good thing for them,  or it is fun, they may be more likely to take the challenge on themselves. Be sure to explain the importance of brushing and flossing in simple terms kids can understand. For example: “Flossing is important because it removes cookies and food left between your teeth. Do you want tooth bugs stuck in between your teeth?” At your child’s next dental checkup, ask your dentist to show visually proper brushing and flossing techniques.

3) Monitor Sweets and Candy – It’s no secret that kids love candy and sweets. But it’s important for kids to know that eating too many sweets causes cavities. Try to keep sugary snacks limited to later in the day to ensure you child brushes away the sugar with his or her evening brushing and flossing regimen. Or if they are going to have sugar at other times make sure they at least rinse but preferably brush as well following the sweets. Also avoid fruit gummies or roll ups these are the worst types of sugar because they lodge between teeth, stick and stay . They are candy not healthy like actual fruit and they are not nutritious.

4) Give kids incentives to achieve – Set a goal with your child to get a “perfect score” the next time he or she has a dental checkup. This, of course, means your dentist finds no cavities! Establish a reward your child will earn for having a perfect checkup, such as that new video game or doll they have been wanting. Make sure they understand that brushing, flossing, and limiting sweets are all ways to reach their goal. You can even tape a photo of the reward to the bathroom mirror for daily reinforcement. Tell yourdentist about the reward system, so he or she can also encourage your child at each checkup. If you are still finding cavities, diet may need to be looked at more closely, and Fluoride may need to be incorporated. Ask your dentist to advise. Remember to schedule your child’s dental checkups every six months. Very important to stay on schedule and go when needed. You are laying the foundation for your child’s oral health throughout life.

Ask your dentist for more tips and tricks to keep our kids teeth cavity free!