FAQ About Brushing

Why is it important to brush?

Brushing is essential as it removes plaque from the mouth. If plaque is left to collect it clings to the tooth and gum surfaces, leading to the potential development of gum disease and tooth decay. Daily brushing (twice a day) helps to ensure plaque is not allowed to collect, reducing the risk of oral diseases.

How does plaque result in decay?

Plaque contains bacteria that can cause harm to the mouth. When you eat foods that contain starch or sugar, the bacteria start to feed on it and cause the release of harmful plaque acids. These acids then attack the protective enamel surfaces of the tooth. If the tooth enamel is worn cavities can form, allowing the spread of bacteria in the tooth.

How does plaque lead to gum disease?

If plaque is left to collect in the mouth it can start to harden into calculus (tartar). Tartar is much harder than plaque to remove from the teeth and gum line. When tartar develops along the gum line the plaque beneath releases harmful poisons, and it is these that cause soreness and swelling of the gums. The gums will eventually start to move from the teeth, causing pockets to develop and the risk of infection to increase.

Gum disease needs to be treated quickly as it can quickly affect supporting bone tissue if left untreated. This can lead to loose teeth and potential tooth loss. Gum disease is the leading source of tooth loss among adults in the UK.

How is it possible to prevent gum disease?

Regular brushing will help to prevent plaque from collecting in the mouth and reduce the risk of gum disease. Flossing and rinsing are also beneficial, and it is essential to attend regular check-ups with your dentist. Visiting a hygienist for a regular deep cleaning treatment will also help to prevent gum disease.

How will I know if I have gum disease?

Gingivitis (the early stage of gum disease) causes red, swollen and bleeding gums. Most people notice bleeding when they are brushing their teeth. If you do notice bleeding you should continue to brush as normal (ensure that you are not brushing too hard as this can damage the gums) and arrange to visit your dentist.

Which toothbrush should I use?

Your hygienist or dentist can discuss the different toothbrushes and oral hygiene products. Adults should use a brush with a small or medium head with soft or medium bristles. Small heads are beneficial because they enable easier movement around the mouth and to difficult corners. Children should use smaller toothbrushes that have soft or medium bristles.

There are now specially designed toothbrushes, including those for sensitive and irregular teeth. There are also brushes available for people who have difficulty holding a toothbrush, such as patients with Parkinson's disease.

How often do I need to change my toothbrush?

Ideally you should get a new toothbrush every two or three months. If your toothbrush head is worn it will not be able to remove plaque effectively, which increases your risk of gum disease and decay.

How should I brush my teeth?

Brushing is designed to remove food particles and plaque from all areas of your teeth. You need to ensure that you cover all areas of the mouth and take care to reach the corners. When you are brushing rest the head of the toothbrush at an angle against the gum line and manoeuvre the brush in small, rounded motion. Ensure that you brush every tooth individually (this includes the outer and inside surfaces) and keep the brush at an angle, as this will target the gum line.

How do I brush the chewing tooth surfaces?

When you are brushing the biting surfaces, keep the brush vertical and move the front of the brush head in small, circular motions. It is also advisable to brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep breath fresh.

How regularly should I brush my teeth?

You should brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time. If you struggle to keep brushing for a long time, use a toothbrush with a timer. Most people brush in the morning and evenings. If you notice bleeding or discomfort when brushing, it is recommended that you visit your dentist.

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