Are You Using the Right Tools to Clean Your Teeth?
Posted on Monday, September 15th, 2008
When you clean house, do you use a broom to clean everything? Of course not. It can’t do a thorough job. It misses too much, is too big for some tasks and useless on carpets, draperies and upholstery. So you use multiple tools—broom, rag, vacuum, mop—to get the job done.
Likewise, you need multiple tools to clean your teeth and gums well. Used properly and consistently, they will help you keep your mouth clean and healthy, and your smile, bright. Here’s the role each plays in supporting Dental Health Fitness.
Brushing removes food particles and disturbs the biofilm which, if left to colonize, creates caries and gum disease. A soft-bristled hand brush is ideal, used at a 45º angle to the gum line, brushing towards the top of each tooth. Clean each tooth individually, overlapping as you move through your mouth. In front, where your dental arches narrow and curve, use the tip of your brush. The whole process should take 2 minutes and be done as soon as possible after eating. Because brushing becomes habitual (e.g. something we do without thinking), start cleaning a different area of the mouth each time. This will help ensure that all areas get cleaned. We also advise switching between manual and electric brushes. The latter can ensure more thorough cleaning because they add vibration and motions that hand brushes just can’t do.
Since biofilm microbes thrive between teeth and below the gum-line, it’s important to clean these spaces using dental floss. Wider styles, like dental tape, are preferable. We like the brand Glide, as it’s made with fiber technology that keeps the floss from shredding during use. For best results, angle the floss to go under the gum at the neck of each tooth so you’re sure to clean more than just the surface contacts of your teeth.
Even after brushing and flossing, some biofilm remains on the neck of each tooth. A Perio-Aid is the best tool for disturbing it. This plastic handle holds a balsa toothpick. The extra length lets you angle the pick under the gum in a sweeping motion (the same motion you use to clean cuticles). Clean both the cheek and tongue sides of your teeth. By adding this tool to their cleaning regimen, most people notice healthier tissues in as little as 3 weeks.
When periodontal pockets have developed, or when tissues bleed during cleaning, we suggest using an oral irrigator, as well. Irrigators stream water under the gum, into areas where bone has been lost, where other tools just can’t reach. You can further promote healing by mixing peroxide or herbal compounds with the water used for irrigating.
When gums recede or bone is lost, the spaces between teeth widen. Special brushes are needed for cleaning these areas. These brushes are sized to the amount of space between teeth. By cleaning the sides of each tooth with these small, “in-between” brushes, you will be able to remove the biofilm that neither regular brushing nor flossing can get at.