Toothbrush 101

June 28, 2021

The toothbrush is a staple of good oral hygiene, but owning a toothbrush and knowing how to use it properly are two different things! Most of us don’t really give it much thought; we apply toothpaste, brush, rinse, and move on with our day. Unfortunately, simply brushing twice a day doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Read on for some toothbrush knowledge you’ll wish you had known! 

Choosing your toothbrush – If you’re using the wrong toothbrush for your mouth, all the brushing in the world won’t help. In fact, it might damage your gums or tooth enamel. When selecting a toothbrush, the size and shape of the brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily, including hard-to-reach back teeth. If the brush is too large, you can damage your gums. Generally, a soft-bristled toothbrush is best for teeth, as medium and stiff bristles might be too hard on your gums and enamel. 

Caring for your toothbrush – Selecting the right toothbrush is not a one-and-done purchase. While we wouldn’t go six months or a year without having the oil changed in our car, many of us don’t think twice about using a toothbrush for that length of time.  To maintain your toothbrush’s effectiveness, it’s important to replace it every three months or as soon as it shows wear and tear (i.e., fraying). Additionally, what you do with your toothbrush when it’s not in use is also important. A 2012 study by Manchester University in the UK showed that more than 10 million bacteria can live on your toothbrush - including human fecal matter. In fact, as gross as it sounds, about 60% of the toothbrushes examined in the study contained trace amounts of feces. This is likely caused by flushing the toilet with the lid open, which can spray toilet water particles into the air. So, where should you put your toothbrush? The American Dental Association recommends thoroughly rinsing your toothbrush with tap water after brushing to remove remaining toothpaste and debris and storing the brush in an upright position that allows it to air-dry between uses. Routinely covering your toothbrush or storing it in a closed container creates a moist environment, which is more conducive to the growth of bacteria than the open air.

Using your toothbrush correctly – We know that using bad form at the gym essentially cancels out our effort, and the same is true when it comes to brushing. A common mistake is brushing in a side-to-side motion. To clean teeth more effectively and help prevent damage to your tooth enamel and gum line,  hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and make small circles. This technique gets slightly below the gumline for a more thorough clean. And, don’t forget to brush your tongue! Bacteria accumulate between taste buds and other crevices, which can lead to bad breath and potentially more serious issues. 

When you brush – We tend to think that the best way to tackle plaque and avoid cavities is to brush immediately after eating or drinking. But it really depends on what we ate or drank. Brushing your teeth right after a meal is intended to prevent acid attacks; however, this only works if the acid hasn’t already started to attack your tooth enamel. For example, if you’ve just finished consuming something highly acidic, such as citrus fruit, the acid attack will likely be underway when you start brushing. This is problematic since acidic foods and drinks leave tooth enamel soft, and if you brush your teeth before the enamel has hardened, you may end up removing the enamel. To avoid enamel damage, it’s best to wait 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods and beverages before brushing your teeth. By that time, your enamel will be re-hardened and won’t be damaged by your brushing. 

Contact Our Dental Office

Of course, you can’t count on brushing alone to maintain good oral health. Regular flossing, dental exams, and twice-yearly cleanings should also be part of your oral hygiene routine. Plus, our team is happy to provide you with a toothbrush and floss at your check-up! Contact our dental team to schedule your appointment today.

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