If you brush your teeth twice a day, you may think you are well protected again tooth decay. But did you know that the way you brush your teeth can actually make you MORE susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease? We all have our own way of brushing, habits that are usually formed in our childhood. But some habits may be worth breaking:
You brush too soon after eating or drinking.
People who brush their teeth 10-15 minutes after drinking a sugary soda experience more wear than those waited at least 30 minutes. Acid in sodas (and other food and drinks) can soften the enamel of the teeth, making them more susceptible to damage. It’s actually best to wait 30-60 minutes before brushing your teeth.
You’re not brushing long enough.
Although our dentists tell us to brush for at least two to three minutes twice a day, few of us actually brush that long. Time yourself the next time you brush, and you may be surprised to find that you only brush around a minute or so. The best way to build a better habit is to set a timer for two to three minutes while you brush, or use an electric toothbrush with a two-minute timer.
Sloppy technique catches up with you.
Chances are you brush mainly in a horizontal fashion, side to side. But that continual side to side motion can eventually wear down your dental enamel, leading to cracks, and weakening it. The best technique is to hold the brush so that the bristles are at a 45 degree angle, and then brush in small circles. Brush horizontally and vertically where necessary, to attack plaque from all angles. Focus on only a few teeth at a time, then move on to the next set. Not only will this make sure all the teeth are brushed, but it will also extend the time you brush. (See above).
You’re using the wrong tools.
Choosing the right toothbrush AND the right toothpaste are essential in maintaining dental health. Throw away those medium-hard bristle brushes, as they are brutal on your gums. Buy only soft or ultrasoft brushes to minimize damage. And abrasion can also come from your toothpaste: Baking soda toothpastes are said to help get stains out of your teeth, but that’s because baking soda is ABRASIVE. That means they are ALSO abrasive to your gums. Want to whiten your teeth? Talk to your dentist about the best (and safest) way to whiten.
You’re brushing too hard.
Brushing harder does not help to get your teeth and gums cleaner. What it can do is traumatize the gums and cause notches near the gum line. A good rule of thumb: if you’re seeing wear on your toothbrush after a month, you’re probably brushing too hard.
You’re not flossing.
It’s not rocket science: flossing gets between your teeth where toothbrushes can’t reach. And since cavities most often form where teeth touch, then it is very important to remove the bacteria left between teeth after brushing, before tooth decay can begin. Be gentle when you floss: no sawing back and forth or pulling the floss roughly. Just wrap the floss around each tooth and gently wipe up and down to remove plaque.
You’re still not rinsing?
Studies have shown that rinsing your mouth with a germ-killing mouthwash or flouride rinse is a key step to make sure that bacteria leave your mouth for good. A nice added benefit is that it keeps your breath fresh longer than if you just brush. If you can’t mouthwash, a thorough rinse and spit is better than nothing.