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Brush Up on the Benefits of Brushing

Brushing your teeth is probably something you do automatically, without giving it a lot of thought. After all, you’ve been doing it since you were a child. Most of us just brush quickly, since mornings are so hectic. We just worry about not heading off to work with morning breath. Your smile depends on you having good oral care habits, so why not take the time to review brushing basics?

Why Is it Absolutely Necessary to Brush My Teeth?

Most of us brush our teeth because it makes our breath smell fresh and we don’t want bits of food stuck in our teeth, and because our dentist told us to at each visit. While these are good reasons, we’re also supposed to brush our teeth to keep them healthy and prevent plaque buildup.

There’s an old dental joke; a patient asks which teeth he should brush. The dentist says he should just brush the ones he wants to keep. Brushing removes accumulated plaque, which can lead to cavities, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. It’s much easier to prevent cavities and gum disease than it is to treat these common diseases. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly half of all Americans have some form of gum disease. Unfortunately, gum disease is linked to tooth loss and to heart disease strokes and other health problems beyond your mouth.

Why Is Plaque So Bad?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria and fungi that grows on your teeth. You can’t see plaque, but if it hardens into tartar, it will appear yellowish. This often happens near the gum line, where it’s more difficult to keep clean. Plaque traps sugars and starches, turning them into an acid that causes cavities.

Plaque and tartar at the gum line will cause gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to bleed when you brush them. Gingivitis is reversible, but if untreated, it may lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a more advanced form of gum disease where the bone and ligaments holding the tooth in place weaken and teeth become loose. More adults lose their teeth from periodontal disease than for any other reason.

There is also a link between periodontal diseases and other systematic diseases, such as stroke, pneumonia and heart disease. Diabetics with periodontal disease also have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. Having untreated periodontal disease also increases your chance of developing dementia by one-third. Taking good care of your teeth and gums improve your overall health.

Tips to Properly Brushing Your Teeth

Effective toothbrushing only takes a few minutes each morning and evening. You should brush twice a day and floss once to keep plaque from building up on your teeth. You can brush more frequently, but don’t brush right away after eating a meal. You should wait at least one hour after having and acidic foods or beverages to protect your enamel. If you are headed to a meeting at work right after lunch and your mouth does not feel clean, keep some sugarless gum with xylitol in your desk. Chew the gum instead.

To get started:

1. Choose the Right Toothbrush

Always use a toothbrush with soft bristles with various height bristles that can bend and reach into spots where plaque can hide. If you have sensitive teeth or receding gums, there are extra soft toothbrushes available. Select a brush with a small head if you have a small mouth so you can reach your back teeth.

As soon as your toothbrush starts to fray, replace it. If it looks worn before three or four months have passed, you are using too much pressure. When you use a toothbrush with frayed bristles, they are more abrasive and can make your teeth sensitive and damage your gums.

2. Use a Fluoride Toothpaste

Any fluoride toothpaste with the American Dental Association Seal of Approval is acceptable. The seal indicates the product is safe and effective. Otherwise, the best toothpaste for you is one with the taste and texture you prefer. If you want a toothpaste to whiten your teeth, ask your dentist for suggestions. Some are too abrasive to use every day.

3. Your Brushing Technique

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush the inner and outer surfaces of your teeth. Next, hold the brush flat and clean the chewing surfaces. Spend two minutes on this part. You can also gently brush your tongue to keep your breath fresh. When you’re done, spit out any remaining toothpaste, but don’t rinse. This allows fluoride to stay on your teeth. When you’re finished, rinse your toothbrush and place it in an uncovered upright container.

4. Flossing

Floss once a day before brushing your teeth. You can use waxed or unwaxed floss, or dental tape if you have wide spaces between your teeth. If you have very narrow spaces between your teeth, waxed dental floss works easier. People with manual dexterity issues may find a water flosser easier to use. Flossing is important because it removes plaque from between teeth that toothbrushing often misses. Despite the inconvenience if developing cavities between the teeth, less than half of Americans floss once every day.

In a survey conducted by the American Dental Association, nearly three-quarters of the people surveyed said they would rather do various tasks than floss their teeth. If you find flossing distasteful, ask your dentist or dental hygienist about easier flossing options.

5. Mouthrinses

You may want to use a mouthwash after brushing. Many people use one to freshen their breath, whiten their teeth or help prevent plaque. Look for the ADA Seal of Approval to ensure the mouthrinse works as promised. Avoid allowing children to use a mouthrinse unless if it specifically formulated for their age.

There’s some debate as to whether mouthrinses are essential. If your dentist recommends an over-the-counter or prescription mouthrinse, you should take their advice. In scientific studies, people who used an antiseptic mouthwash and brushed and flossed with the same products as people who used a placebo mouthwash, have significantly less plaque buildup and signs of gingivitis.

Better Dental Health Through Brushing and Flossing

Brushing and flossing regularly will help keep your teeth and gums healthy, but it can also affect your overall health. Studies have shown a direct link between oral health and overall health. If you want to keep your natural teeth healthy and looking good, make sure you practice good dental health at home and see your dentist regularly.

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