Just Brushing Your Teeth Isn’t Enough
Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2010
It’s a common refrain: brush your teeth after meals or at least twice a day.
But did you know that you can brush regularly yet still be at risk of cavities and gum disease?
Consider a study recently published in the Swedish Dental Journal.
The study examined 500 randomly selected adolescents from Västra Götaland (Fyrbodal and Skaraborg). “On average, these adolescents had plaque on half of all tooth surfaces, which is certainly too much. Seven out of eight adolescents had more plaque than is currently deemed acceptable,” explains doctoral student Jessica Skoog Ericsson.
Gingivitis was also identified as a common problem resulting from poor oral hygiene. This can generally increase the risk of future dental problems as well as tooth-loosening.
This study shows that the vast majority of adolescents, 76 per cent, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Four per cent of adolescents also use dental floss daily, but just as many don’t clean their teeth at all some days.
76% brush twice daily. Nearly 90% have too much plaque – dental biofilm – on their teeth. Something doesn’t add up here.
Of course, we have to wonder whether one problem might be that the teens overstated how much they brushed.
“There may be some who are less than honest and say that they brush their teeth more regularly than they actually do, but other studies have shown that adolescents do generally brush their teeth on a regular basis. Poor oral hygiene is probably therefore due to them not brushing correctly and not using dental floss,” says Kajsa Henning Abrahamsson, a senior lecturer in odontology at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
Incorrect brushing may involve any number of things – for instance, not brushing long enough, not angling the brush to hit all surfaces of the teeth or using a worn-out brush. Any of these can ensure that some biofilm will remain intact on the teeth.
If brushing is to be effective, then, it must be done well. Here are some tips for the right way to brush.
Similarly, flossing is vital to good oral health, as it cleans areas most toothbrushes miss or can’t get to: between teeth and around their stems to the gumline. If not regularly cleaned well, the gums become puffy and swollen. They may bleed during flossing or when probed by a dentist. These are signs of gum disease. Eventually, pockets will form between the gums and teeth, leading to greater infection, inflammation and ultimately bone and tooth loss. (The progression of periodontal disease is shown clearly in this slide show.)
Flossing is one of the best things you can do to keep this from happening, but again, it’s important to know how to floss correctly and well.
For taking good care of your teeth between dental visits is the best insurance you can have for keeping a healthy and attractive smile.