Brushing and flossing
Brushing and flossing are important parts of your daily routine. But it's not enough to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day - you have to do it correctly. Here's how:
- The head of your toothbrush should be placed beside the teeth, and the tips of the bristles placed at a 45-degree-angle to the gumline.
- Move the toothbrush back and forth, using short strokes and a scrubbing motion, several times in each spot.
- Keep the bristles angled against the gumline, while you brush both the inner and outer surfaces of each tooth.
- Brush the chewing surfaces straight on.
- Clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth by tilting the brush vertically and making several up-and-down strokes with the front of the brush.
- Finish by brushing your tongue, which helps remove bacteria from your mouth.
- Brush your teeth gently using short strokes. Apply just enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums. If you are squashing the bristles, you're brushing too hard.
- Replace your toothbrush approximately every two to three months or as soon as the bristles are worn or bent. A worn-out toothbrush does not clean your teeth properly, and may actually injure your gums. You should also replace your toothbrush after you've had a cold.
- Be sure you are reaching every tooth. The toothbrush can only clean one or two teeth at a time, so you should be moving the toothbrush around frequently.
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Avoid toothbrushes with hard bristles, which can damage your gums. Use a toothbrush with soft, end-rounded bristles.
- Ask your dentist to recommend the type of toothbrush that would work best for you.
- Break off about 18 inches of floss, and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes used.
- Hold the floss tightly (without any slack) between your two hands, with about an inch of floss between them. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle sawing motion.
- When the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a C-shape against the tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel resistance.
- Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum.
- Repeat this technique on all of your teeth, including the teeth in back.
- Establish a regular pattern for flossing so that you don't miss any teeth.
- As with brushing, flossing should be done gently. Improper flossing can injure your gums.
- If you have not been flossing regularly, your gums may bleed and be sore for the first five or six days. As plaque is broken up and bacteria removed, your gums will heal and the bleeding will stop.
- By age eight, children should be able to floss their own teeth. To make it easier, use a loop of floss. Simply tie the ends of a 10-inch piece of floss, forming a circle. Hold the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers, and use the technique above.
- A floss holder can make flossing easier for those who do not have good finger dexterity. Special picks and sticks are also available to help those who find floss difficult to work with. Consult your dentist about the best technique for you.