You know, there’s nothing like the fresh, clean feeling in your mouth after you’ve brushed and flossed your teeth to make you feel good. But cleaning your teeth properly does much more for you than help keep your smile bright and your breath fresh. The reason we brush and floss is to remove plaque, a colourless, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Plaque is one of the main causes of tooth decay and gum disease.
So making a habit of practicing good oral hygiene can really pay off - but in more ways than you might first think. You are not only keeping your teeth and gums in good shape, you’re also contributing to your overall health and well-being.
How does plaque harm my teeth and gums?
The bacteria in plaque react with foods we eat to produce acids that can attack and weaken tooth enamel (the hard, protective, covering on our teeth), opening the way for cavities to develop. Plaque can also irritate the gums, leading to gum disease, which, in its early stage, is called gingivitis.
Am I at risk for gum disease?
Yes, gum disease can affect you at any age; however, it most often effects adults. In fact, about three out of four adults over age 35 have gum disease now or have had it in the past. Fortunately, with regular dental visits and proper oral care every day, gingivitis can be prevented or reversed, because no permanent damage has been done. Left untreated, gingivitis may progress to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, in which the bone and gums that support your teeth become damaged. Once periodontitis develops, the damage can’t be reversed– only a professional treatment program and improved daily oral care at home can keep it from getting worse.
Is there anything else I can do?
Keep sweets and sugary foods and drinks to a minimum. Instead, choose sugar-free items for snacking. Good choices include vegetable fresh fruits, bread and water.
If you cant brush you teeth after eating, sugar free chewing gum or rinsing your mouth with water are good substitutes.
How to floss
Take around 30cm of floss and loosely wrap most of it around each middle finger (wrapping more around one finger than the other) leaving 5cm of floss in between.
With your thumbs and index fingers holding the floss taut, gently slide it down between your teeth, while being careful not to snap it down on your gums.
Curve the floss around each tooth in a “C” shape and gently move it up and down the sides of each tooth, including under the gumline. Unroll a new section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
How do I know that I'm brushing my teeth properly?
For the outer tooth surfaces, place the tooth brush at a 45° angle towards the gumline. Using a gentle, short circular strokes back and forth against the teeth and gums
Use the same motion for the chewing and inside surfaces of the teeth. Holding the brush upright and using the tip of the brush will help clean the inner front surfaces.
Don’t forget to brush along the gumline and make sure you reach the teeth right at the back. And while your at it, give your tongue a brush. It’ll help keep your breath fresh.
Proper brushing is the first step to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. It takes at least two minutes using a recommended technique.
A quick guide
Brush thoroughly twice a day with a soft–bristled toothbrush.
Floss between teeth at night before tooth brushing to remove plaque from area’s your toothbrush can’t reach.
Eat a balanced diet; this helps keep your teeth and gum healthy.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco, as it stains your teeth.
Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles begin to look worn out.
Visit your dentist and hygienist at least twice a year for a professional cleaning and examination.