Looking after your Mouth – Part 1 – Brushing



I called this ‘looking after your mouth’ rather than ‘looking after your teeth’ for a reason.  Dentists don’t just look after your teeth!

This may or may not come as a surprise to you but we are responsible for detecting and treating (or referring for treatment) a wide range of conditions that may appear in the mouth.

The main ones are the obvious ones; our old favourites dental caries (decay) and periodontal disease (gum disease).  Over my next few blog posts I am going to try and give some advice that may help you to retain your teeth and improve the health of your mouth!

With regards to brushing, I give the following advice to my patients:

1. Brush twice a day

It is advisable to do this last thing at night and on one other occasion during the day, ideally first thing in the morning.  

The reason it is so important to brush your teeth at night is so that you get rid of all the sticky plaque that has built  up on your teeth over the course of the day whenever you eat, suck a sweet, have a sugary drink (squash, fizzy drinks etc) or have a hot drink with sugar in,  munch on a biscuit etc etc.  If this plaque stays on your teeth when you go to bed at night then it stagnates and becomes alot harder to brush off the following morning, this is why brushing your teeth should be the last thing you do before going to bed.I

t is not advisable to brush your teeth more than three times a day – that old saying that ‘too much of a good thing is bad’ is also true when it comes to brushing the teeth.  Brushing too frequently can actually damage the enamel of the teeth or if you have receding gums, the damage to exposed root surfaces can be more rapid. So stick to twice  a day!

2. Use a good quality electric toothbrush (ETB)

I know they might seem expensive but they really are an investment in the health of your teeth and gums.  Research has shown that, even when good brushing technique is used with a manual toothbrush for the recommended time of two minutes, electric toothbrushes are far superior in removing plaque and reducing bleeding from the gums.

They are very effective for a number of reasons (I will only mention a few): * They tend to have a smaller head than most manual toothbrushes so it is easier to get to all the hard to reach areas of the mouth. This can be particularly useful if you have a sensitive gag reflex.

* The majority of modern ETB’s have a 2 minute timer to ensure that you brush your teeth for long enough.  There have been studies done (and I wish I could remember who and when so I could reference them) which have demonstrated that when people are asked to brush their teeth for two minutes they only end up brushing for an average of 30 seconds! That’s a QUARTER of the recommended time. Why do we recommend 2 minutes? Again it is to do with research that has been done which shows that this is how long it takes to effectively remove plaque build up from the teeth.

 * The action of the toothbrushes enables the tooth surface to be brushed many more times than it would be feasibly possible to do with a toothbrush held in your hand.  

3. Use a Fluoride Toothpaste

This is proven to work!! When fluoride was introduced in to toothpaste in the 1970’s the decay rate of the general population dropped by 50%. It halved! So check the fluoride content of your toothpaste.  Ideally this should be a minimum of 1450 ppm (parts per million) for adults and not less than 1000ppm for very young children.  You do not need a lot of toothpaste on your brush, children need even less but the important thing is to make sure that the fluoride content is adequate! 


Yes, that’s right, you heard me!! Spit, don’t rinse!  It is a habit that alot of people get into from a young age but there is no reason for anybody (including children) to be rinsing after brushing.

I am talking about rinsing your mouth with water OR mouthwash straight after brushing.  I am also talking about sticking your toothbrush under the tap and then brushing your teeth again.

Why is this so bad?

Well, when you brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, your teeth get coated with a small film of fluoride which can be absorbed to help strengthen and protect your teeth (it really does work but I don’t want to bore you with the biochemistry!). So, when you rinse your mouth after brushing, all that lovely fluoride gets rinsed away and doesn’t have time to do its job.  

This is particularly important if you suffer from sensitive teeth and use a sensitive toothpaste.  There are extra ingredients in desensitising toothpaste to help combat the problem but if you rinse them off after you brush then they aren’t going to help with your problem.I am not saying don’t use mouthwash!

Mouthwash can be very beneficial for a number of problems but it is best to use it at a different time of day to when you brush your teeth.

For example:

 * Brush teeth on waking 

* Have shower, breakfast, get ready 

* Use mouthwash before leaving the houseor: 

* Use mouthwash when get back to house 

* Go about normal evening 

* Brush teeth before bed

To end with, check out this video on toothbrushing technique.
Watch out for part 2.Happy Brushing

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