When and how should I brush and floss?

There are more than 600 strains of active bacteria alive in the mouth. These bacteria can wreak havoc on a person’s teeth and gums causing cavities and, if left unaddressed, periodontal disease. These harmful bacteria can even spread through the blood stream and affect other systems in the body.

Recent studies show that most people do not spend enough time brushing and flossing their teeth, leading to longer, more expensive visits at the dental office. When bacteria in the mouth is not removed, it forms into plaque. If you don’t remove the plaque, it hardens into tartar. And you can’t brush away tartar – it has to be removed by your dentist. Brushing and flossing together is the only way to avoid the tartar that causes dental caries (cavities) and gum disease.

The good news is the simple act of brushing twice a day and flossing once daily can prevent painful cavities and periodontal disease by removing plaque and bacteria that stick to teeth. Brushing teeth properly begins with using the right toothbrush both in size and the stiffness of the bristles. If you are unsure as to what type of brush is best for your mouth talk to your dentist for guidance.

Proper Brushing:

  • Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle against the gum line.
  • Using soft, short vertical or circular motions clean the outer surfaces of your upper teeth then move down to the lower teeth, being certain to sweep away from the gum line.
  • Next move on to the back surfaces of your upper teeth, paying close attention to back teeth as they can be harder to reach.
  • Finally brush the chewing surface of your teeth.

Done properly, a thorough brushing will take at least 2 minutes to complete. However, most people skim across their teeth so fast they spend less than 48 seconds on their entire mouth!

The next step in proper dental care is flossing to help remove the plaque in between teeth where brush bristles can’t reach.

Proper Flossing:

  • Tear off a strand of floss about 12-16 inches long and hold it between your thumb and middle finger.
  • Gently guide the floss down to the gum line.
  • Guide the floss in a “C” up and down both sides of the teeth to scrap off any plaque that was left behind by the brush.

It doesn’t matter in what order you brush and floss, as long as you don’t skip either one. Sometimes it may seem that brushing and flossing take up time in an already busy schedule, but a little prevention can help you avoid painful infection and thousands of dollars in corrective dental care or surgery. Remember – your mouth is like an expressway for infection to reach the rest of your body. Keeping your mouth healthy is your first line of defense in keeping your body healthy.

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