You may think your regular brushing and flossing habits are keeping your smile healthy, but if you’re using the wrong tools for the job, or if your technique is not quite right, you may actually be harming those pearly whites despite your best efforts.
We’ve come a long way from the ancient chew-sticks and boar-bristled brushes used before nylon bristles came on the market, but if you’re using a medium or hard-bristled brush to scrub away plaque and debris you could also be scrubbing away your tooth enamel (as well as damaging your gums), depending on how heavy handed you are when you brush and how strong your teeth are (or aren’t).
Hard toothbrushes are not recommended by the dental hygienist. Users of hard bristled brushes usually omit the areas which need brushing the most: near the margins of the gingiva. This omission is because the hard brush “hurts” the “gums” when the toothbrush touches the area. When these areas are not cleaned daily, the results are excessive growth of bacterial chains which produce gingivitis and can progress to periodontal disease. This in turn, is a major cause of tooth loss and contributes to foul breath odors.
When choosing a toothbrush, whether you pick electric or manual, it is best to choose a toothbrush that has soft bristles that are made of nylon. Soft, rounded bristles are the best choice for removing plaque and tartar buildup without damaging your teeth.
It is also important that you pay attention to the size of the toothbrush you choose, as each person’s mouth and teeth are different. You want to choose a toothbrush that is the correct size for your own mouth. In most cases, this will be a brush whose head is an inch tall and half-inch wide. Though there are larger ones available, these may be more difficult to use in the harder to reach areas in the back of the mouth, particularly around the molars.
Once you’ve got the right tool for the job, you’ll also want to assess your technique. Are you a vigorous scrubber? If so, it’s time to lighten up. Proper tooth brushing takes two minutes — think of it as 30 seconds dedicated to each quadrant of your mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left). While you may want to scrub away plaque, the best technique is to brush gently, holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle at the gum line where plaque likes to hide.
Correct Brushing Technique
Plaque is sticky, but it’s easy to remove, so no scrubbing is necessary — even with a soft-bristled brush. Use short strokes, and when you’re cleaning the back surfaces of your teeth, use short up-and-down strokes. To avoid brushing too hard, try holding your toothbrush with your fingertips instead of gripping it in the palm of your hand — this will give you a lighter touch. And pay attention while you clean: If you notice the bristles are bending as you brush, you’re brushing too hard.
Weakened tooth enamel puts teeth at risk for staining, sensitivity and decay, and once enamel is gone, it’s gone. The remaining enamel can be repaired, though, through a process called remineralization.Enamel is primarily made up of calcium and phosphate, and remineralization helps to make enamel stronger and reduces tooth sensitivity and decay by providing calcium and phosphate minerals right to the tooth surface. Products that contain calcium phosphate or casein phosphopeptide amorphous calcium phosphate nanocomplexes (CPP-ACP) such as Recaldent or MI Paste have been found to help remineralize enamel, and in addition, your own saliva helps with the process, too.
People who are used to using hard toothbrushes are usually “hard” to convert to soft toothbrushes. Hard brush users usually present with somewhat clean teeth on the facial areas of their front teeth. But when all the surfaces are visually/radiographically examined beyond that point, the “norm” is calculus “build-up” accompanied by some degree of periodontal disease…
So, opt for a soft-bristle brush, ease up on the pressure and be consistent with your oral hygiene to ensure your healthiest smile.