Brushing & Flossing


How Do I Choose And Use A Toothbrush?

Angled heads, raised bristles, oscillating tufts and handles that change colors with use: you name it, toothbrushes come in all shapes, colors and sizes, promising to perform better than the rest. But no body of scientific evidence exists yet to show that any one type of toothbrush design is better at removing plaque than another. The only thing that matters is that you brush your teeth. Many just don't brush long enough. Most people brush less than a minute, but to effectively reach all areas and scrub off cavity-causing bacteria, it is recommended to brush for two to three minutes.

Which toothbrush is best?

In general, a toothbrush head should be small (1" by 1/2") for easy access to all areas of the mouth, teeth and gums. It should have a long, wide handle for a firm grasp. It should have soft nylon bristles with rounded ends so you won't hurt your gums.

When should I change my toothbrush?

Be sure to change your toothbrush, or toothbrush head (if you're using an electric toothbrush) before the bristles become splayed and frayed. Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, but they may harbor harmful bacteria that can cause infection such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Toothbrushes should be changed every three to four months. Sick people should change their toothbrush at the beginning of an illness and after they feel better.

How do I brush?

Place the toothbrush beside your teeth at a 45-degree angle and rub back-and-forth gently. Brush outside the teeth, inside the tooth, your tongue, and especially brush on chewing surfaces and between teeth. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, especially after meals.

How long should I brush my teeth?

You should brush your teeth at least 2-3 minutes twice a day. Brush your teeth for the length of a song on the radio, the right amount of time to get the best results from brushing. Unfortunately, most Americans only brush for 45-70 seconds twice a day.

Electric vs. manual toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes don't work that much better than manual toothbrushes, but they do motivate some reluctant brushers to clean their teeth more often. The whizzing sounds of an electric toothbrush and the tingle of the rotary tufts swirling across teeth and gums often captivates people who own electric toothbrushes. They are advantageous because they can cover more area faster. Electric toothbrushes are recommended for people who have limited manual dexterity, such as a disabled or elderly person and those who wear braces. Most electric toothbrushes have rechargeable batteries that take 10 to 45 minutes to recharge.

How do electrics work?

Electric toothbrushes generally work by using tufts of nylon bristles to stimulate gums and clean teeth in an oscillating or rotary motion. Some tufts are arranged in a circular pattern, while others have the traditional shape of several bristles lined up on a row. When first using an electric toothbrush, expect some bleeding from your gums. The bleeding will stop when you learn to control the brush and your gums become healthier. Children under 10 should be supervised when using an electric toothbrush. Avoid mashing the tufts against your teeth in an effort to clean them. Use light force and slow movements, and allow the electric bristle action to do its job.

How long have toothbrushes been used?

The first toothbrush was invented in China in 1000 A.D. It was an ivory-handled toothbrush with bristles made from a horse's mane. Toothbrushes became popular in the 19th century among the Victorian affluent. Mass marketing and the advent of nylon bristles in the 20th century made toothbrushes inexpensive and available to everyone.

Don't forget . . .

Visit your dentist regularly because toothbrushing and flossing is most

effective with periodic checkups and cleanings.

Don't Rush the Brush

Despite the variety and advancements in toothbrushes today, people don't brush long enough to get the best results, reports the Academy of General Dentistry.  The right amount of time to get the best results from brushing is approximately the length of a song plays on the radio, that's about three minutes.  So listen to the entire song when brushing.  The modern toothbrush has changed a lot since it was invented in China in 1000 A.D. with bristles made from horse hair. Today, they come in fashion colors with angled heads, raised bristles that change color with use. But the mechanical and physical improvements of toothbrushes are not effective unless they are used correctly.  People will swear that they've brushed three to four minutes, but the average person brushes for less than a minute. This is not long enough to search all areas of the mouth and scrub off cavity causing bacteria.  Generally, a toothbrush should have a long, wide handle with soft bristles. Be sure to brush on both sides of the teeth and the tongue. Change toothbrushes every three to four months before their bristles become frayed. Also toss the toothbrush after an illness to avoid harmful bacteria harbored in the bristles.  Electric toothbrushes are a great option for those who have limited dexterity, such as older people or arthritis suffers, and are effective for people with braces since the rotating heads can clean hard-to-reach areas.

Is Your Family Sharing Too Much?

You wouldn't think of sharing your toothbrush. Not even with a family member. But it takes more than sole proprietorship to avoid partnering infection, reports the Academy of General Dentistry.  Studies show that toothbrushes can become heavily contaminated with oral microorganisms. Because most families store toothbrushes in a common storage space, airborne bacteria can move from toothbrush to toothbrush, passing opportunistic infections such as periodontal disease and the common cold from one person to another. Your best defense is to go undercover. The easiest way to protect your toothbrush is by using a toothbrush cover. Splattering water, contact with skin, and toothbrushes knocking against one another are all circumstances that contribute to the spread of bacteria. It is recommended to rinse bristles thoroughly, then shake any extra moisture from the brush and store it upright before placing a cover over the toothbrush head.  Studies also show a link between self-contaminated toothbrushes and oral inflammatory diseases. Bacteria from food particles and contact with the skin are unavoidable consequences of daily brushing.

Toothbrush Nation - From Basic Necessity to Trendy Accessory, the Lowly Toothbrush Comes of Age

Over the past two decades, toothbrush manufacturers have poured millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into building a better toothbrush. Along the way, they have built the U.S. oral care market into a $3.4 billion industry, changed the brushing habits of millions and turned the lowly toothbrush into a trendy lifestyle accessory, according to an article in the February issue of AGD Impact, the newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry.

Leading the charge are children's brushes that target specific age groups and encourage proper technique for parents and tots; and adult brushes that cater to specific brushing styles and esthetic sense. And thanks to the launch of inexpensive battery operated toothbrushes, the power market has soared, gaining impressive ground in an arena once dominated by manual brushes. While esthetic changes have played a large role in toothbrush redesign, manufacturers say the focus has been on helping people brush better.

"The best brush is the one someone uses," said Bob Roesch, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy. "A lot of people might say that a lot of toothbrush advances are gimmicks, but if they get people to brush longer that's fantastic."

In the past 20 years, most toothbrush companies have made numerous functional and aesthetic changes to the heads and bodies of their products. Handles were thickened for a more comfortable grip and extended to increase the reach of the bristles. Shaft materials changed, incorporating translucent and more flexible plastics in the handle and rubber components fashioned into thumb ridges to help prevent slippage. In every case, the goal was ensure consumers used it-and used it properly.

While manual brushes control 90 percent of the market, their electric and battery operated counterparts are one of the driving forces of the industry. Power brushes used to run up to $130 a unit. Today, they can be had for less than $10. Much of this price drop is the result of the creation of battery-powered brushes in late 2000 and early 2001.

Childrens' toothbrushes have probably changed more than any other toothbrush on the market. What used to be a neglected market is now flourishing as more designers-and parents-are recognizing that children's mouths are not simply smaller versions of adult mouths, but unique oral topographies that are constantly changing and thus have unique needs. Many companies have designed lines of manual and power toothbrushes specifically for children ranging in ages from 4 months to 8 years and older.

Like cars, telephones and other essentials of our society, the toothbrush has changed to fit the times. Today, consumers are better educated about oral health care needs, and the market is full of dental products to ensure optimal dental health. More than just a utilitarian necessity, toothbrushes, like clothes or perfume, say something about who we are.

Tot Toothbrushes Promote Good Brushing Habits

Many parents don't know that children's teeth must be cleaned as soon as they start coming in. What they also may not know is that traditional toothbrushes may not be safe for toddlers an infants to use themselves. Until recently, parents were advised to use traditional children's toothbrushes for babies and toddlers whose primary teeth are coming in. But according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 945 children, ranging in age from newborns to 4-year-olds, were treated in emergency rooms in 1993 for toothbrush-related injuries, primarily from the over-insertion in the child's throat. Today, safer toddler toothbrushes are available that prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria. Using toddler toothbrushes themselves can help children establish good oral health habits at an early age.

A dental hygienist designed and introduced the first toddler toothbrush in 1993. It resembles an oblong-shaped teething toy, with one wide end for easy gripping and a narrow end with a small head of bristles. The shape prevents it from being over-inserted in the mouth or swallowed, and some models have bumps around the gripping end that infants can teeth on.

Even before children's primary teeth come in, parents should start promoting oral health in infants by wiping the baby's mouth with a washcloth or gauze pad to prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria. Parents also should avoid putting an infant to bed with a bottle of anything other than water to prevent the child from developing "baby bottle tooth decay."  It's never too early for parents to encourage their youngsters to start using toddler tooth brushes.As soon as they're reaching and grabbing for things, they're ready for it.  It familiarizes children with having a toothbrush in their mouths, and they like to mimic their parents.  Parents need to be good role models.  They need to take good care of their own teeth and make dental care part of the daily routine for the whole family. Adults should supervise children while brushing. Adults also should help children have fun with oral care by singing songs to keep them brushing longer or making brushing a game by naming the individual teeth being cleaned.

Which Toothbrush?

Brush Right

• Two minutes, twice a day

• Use a circular motion at a 45-degree angle

• Use brushes with compact heads and soft bristles

Dentists say the best toothbrush in the world is the one you use regularly. Compliance is the ultimate benchmark by which these basic dental tools ought to be judged. Though numerous changes made to the toothbrush every year may make consumers wonder where functionality ends and marketing savvy begins.

Some people may think toothbrush advances are gimmicks, but if they get people to brush longer that's fantastic.  Since the early 1980s, several key innovations have made brushing a more pleasurable experience for the public. Ergonomic handles gave toothbrushes a more comfortable grip. Shaft materials changed, incorporating translucent and more flexible plastics in the handle and rubber components fashioned into thumb ridges to help prevent slippage. In every case, the goal was to ensure consumers used it—and used it properly.

Flosses And Waterpicks

Plaque is a sticky layer of material containing germs that accumulates on teeth, including places where toothbrushes can't reach. This can lead to gum disease. The best way to get rid of plaque is to brush and floss your teeth carefully every day. The toothbrush cleans the tops and sides of your teeth. Dental floss cleans in between them. Some people use waterpicks, but floss is the best choice.

Should I floss?

Yes. Floss removes plaque and debris that adhere to teeth and gums in between teeth, polishes tooth surfaces, and controls bad breath. Floss is the single most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush. Many people just don't spend enough time flossing or brushing and many have never been taught to floss or brush properly. When you visit your dentist or hygienist, ask to be shown.

Why should I floss?

Flossing is the one most important step in oral care that people forget to do or claim they don't have time for. By flossing your teeth daily, you increase the chances of keeping your teeth a lifetime and decrease your chance of having periodontal or gum disease. Flossing cleans away the plaque from between your teeth, decreases the chance of interproximal decay and increases blood circulation in the gums.

Which type of floss should I use?

Dental floss comes in many forms: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, wide and regular. Wide floss, or dental tape, may be helpful for people with a lot of bridgework. Tapes are usually recommended when the spaces between teeth are wide. They all clean and remove plaque about the same. Waxed floss might be easier to slide between tight teeth or tight restorations. However, the unwaxed floss makes a squeaking sound to let you know your teeth are clean. Bonded unwaxed floss does not fray as easily as regular unwaxed floss, but does tear more than waxed floss.

How should I floss?

There are two flossing methods: the spool method and the loop method. The spool method is suited for those with manual dexterity. Take an 18-inch piece of floss and wind the bulk of the floss lightly around the middle finger. (Don't cut off your finger's circulation!) Wind the rest of the floss similarly around the same finger of the opposite hand. This finger takes up the floss as it becomes soiled or frayed. Maneuver the floss between teeth with your index fingers and thumbs. Don't pull it down hard against your gums or you will hurt them. Don't rub it side to side as if you're shining shoes. Bring the floss up and down several times forming a "C" shape around the tooth being sure to go below the gum line. The loop method is suited for children or adults with less nimble hands, poor muscular coordination or arthritis. Take an 18-inch piece of floss and make it into a circle. Tie it securely with three knots. Place all of the fingers, except the thumb, within the loop. Use your index fingers to guide the floss through the lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, going below the gumline forming a "C" on the side of the tooth.

How often should I floss?

At least once a day. To give your teeth a good flossing, spend at least two or three minutes.

What are floss holders?

You may prefer a prethreaded flosser or floss holder, which often looks like a little hacksaw. Flossers are handy for people with limited dexterity, for those who are just beginning to floss, or for caretakers who are flossing someone else's teeth.

Is it safe to use toothpicks?

In a pinch, toothpicks are effective at removing food between teeth, but for daily cleaning of plaque between teeth, floss is recommended. Toothpicks come round and flat, narrow and thick. When you use a toothpick, don't press too hard as you can break off the end and lodge it in your gums.

Do I need a waterpick (irrigating device)?

Don't use waterpicks as a substitute for toothbrushing and flossing. But they are effective around orthodontic braces that retain food in areas a toothbrush cannot reach. However, they do not remove plaque. Waterpicks are frequently recommended for persons with gum disease when recommended by your dentist. Solutions containing antibacterial agents like chlorhexidine or tetracycline, available through a dentist's prescription, can be added to the reservoir.

Can't Floss Regularly? Once A Day Keeps Tartar Away!

Despite advice, recommendations and warnings from dentists about the importance of regular flossing, many people admit they still don't do it, and countless more do it only in the days and weeks before or after their semi-annual cleanings and checkups. The reasons patients cite for not flossing are many, but lack of time is the most common. Many patients feel guilty about not flossing daily, and some abandon the practice all together.  Patients should floss once a day for control of calculus and tartar build-up on their teeth because plaque is continually developing on your teeth, causing cavities and gum disease,

Don’t give up-flossing even two or three times a week has its benefits, and it's far better than not flossing at all.  At least get in there and break up those colonies of bacteria and germs so they aren't accumulating for quite so long.  Floss correctly by sliding the floss against the side surfaces of the teeth--not just sliding it in between the teeth. Once you are familiar with flossing, floss when and where you have time. You can even keep floss near your living room chair and do it while watching television. Although the best time to floss is before bed, getting it done is more important than what time it's done.  Some patients report they stopped flossing because they noticed that their gums bleed when they floss. That means there are germs and inflammation in there. Patients should continue flossing, and the bleeding will usually stop within a week or two,

1. For the outer tooth surfaces, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward

the gumline.

2. Use gentle, short strokes, moving the brush back and forth against the teeth and


3. Use this same motion to clean the chewing and inner tooth surfaces.

4. To clean the inner front tooth surfaces, hold the brush upright and use gentle up-and-down strokes with the tip of the brush.

5. Don’t forget to brush

along the gumline, and

make sure you reach those teeth right at the back.

6. And while you’re at it, give your tongue a brushing—it’ll help keep your breath fresh!

1. Take about 50 cm of floss and loosely wrap most of it around each middle finger (wrapping more around one finger than the other) leaving 5 cm of floss in between.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Brushing Technique

Flossing Technique

Keeping clean in between—

a quick guide:

Brush your teeth—twice a day, for at least

two minutes. Clean in between teeth daily before brushing—

morning or night, it’s up to you.

Bleeding gums may be a sign of gum disease and should stop after

a few days of regular interdental cleaning. If bleeding persists, consult your dentist.

Follow your interdental cleaning plan—ask your dentist to identify the areas of your mouth that you

should pay special