A beautiful, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime is our ultimate goal when treating patients. Your oral hygiene plays an important role in achieving this goal. This includes routinely brushing and flossing your teeth with the correct use of dental aids. When starting to develop a oral hygiene routine, many people notice bleeding of the gums and temporary bad breath. Although this may seem unsettling, it is a sign of the inflammation that the brushing and flossing is working against. If you notice this, do not stop brushing or flossing. Simply continue your daily routine and after several days your gums will begin to strengthen, the bleeding will resolve, and fresher breath will return.
Brushing - Brushing your teeth is a major component of good oral hygiene. Brushing removes the plaque that causes gum disease from the surfaces of the teeth. To ensure you are properly brushing your teeth, follow these steps:
Brush twice a day- once in the morning and once at night (after your last meal/drink).
Brush for two full minutes, ensuring you have thoroughly cleaned every tooth surface and at the gumline. Make sure to brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth. Don't forget the very back surface of the teeth furthest back in your mouth.
Use an American Dental Association approved soft bristle tooth brush to ensure proper cleaning. Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes are no more effective at cleaning than soft bristle brushes and can actually damage your tooth structure and gums. Electric toothbrushes are an effective alternative to manual toothbrushes. They are easy to use and with their rotating or oscillating heads, they do all the work for you.
If using a manual toothbrush, place the bristles at a 45 degree angle toward the gumline. Gently brush using small, circular motions. When cleaning the biting surfaces of your teeth, use gentle back-and-forth motions. If using an electric toothbrush, simply hold the toothbrush against the teeth without applying additional pressure, allowing the mechanical action to do it's job.
Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Flossing - Daily flossing plays a key role of achieving good oral health. Flossing is the best way to clean the areas that your toothbrush cannot reach; between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing not only helps remove food debris from these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone. Follow these steps to ensure proper flossing:
Floss twice a day, preferably after brushing.
Take 18 inches of dental floss (about the length from your fingertips to your elbow) and wrap the ends around your middle fingers.
Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently work the floss between the teeth in a back-and-forth motion toward the gumline.
Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and gently move back-and-forth to clean under the gumline.
Use a new section of floss when moving to the next area to clean. Don't forget to floss behind the very back teeth, under the gumline.
Floss picks and toothpicks are not recommended as alternatives to string floss. Floss picks are Y-shaped with a handle and a small piece of floss connecting the two arms. While they can slide between teeth, they cannot hug around the teeth in a C-shape and do not effectively reach under the gumline. When sliding floss picks between the teeth, it is easy to apply excessive downward force (instead of gentle back-and-forth motions like with string floss or other interdental cleaners) which can damage the gums. Toothpicks do not fit between the teeth and can easily poke and damage the gums.
If you have difficulty manually handling string floss, wear dental appliances such as traditional orthodontic braces or bridges, or would like to learn about other oral hygiene aids, please visit our Oral Hygiene Aids page.
*Please note the people depicted in the photographs are models and not real patients.*