Tips For Cleaning Your Teeth and Avoiding Common Mistakes
Brushing our teeth is so second nature, most of us do it without thinking. However, there is a right way to brush your teeth and there are common mistakes that many people make. For a clean, healthy smile, you should be cleaning your teeth twice a day and keeping these key tips for brushing teeth in mind.
Brush Before Breakfast
Brushing your teeth should be the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do in the morning. Many assume that it’s best to brush the teeth after eating breakfast in order to start the day with a squeaky clean smile. However, a lot of common breakfast foods and drinks are acidic, such as grapefruit and fruit juice, and these acids weaken the tooth’s enamel. The sugar in these foods also encourages the spread of bacteria on the teeth, producing even more acid. This means that brushing your teeth straight after breakfast effectively rubs sugar into your teeth and can wear away soft enamel.
“The ideal timeline of the morning would be to get up, get out of bed and then brush teeth at this point,” says Dr Uchenna Okoye, a London dentist and smile director for Oral-B.
Use an Electric Toothbrush
According to Dr Okoye, technological advancements have made today’s electric toothbrushes much better at cleaning teeth than manual brushes.
“It’s like using a washing machine to clean clothes versus washing by hand,” she explains. “With the electric brush you plonk it there and it does the work for you. Hold it over the tooth and the bristles do all the work.”
Electric toothbrushes can also make getting a thorough brushing easier for people with arthritis or other problems that affect the hands.
Don’t Brush Up and Down
Scrubbing up and down can wear away at the gums which, over time, causes them to recede. You should use gentle circular motions, while making sure not to brush too hard. To ensure all teeth are cleaned adequately, it’s best to divide the mouth into quarters and make sure you spend equal time on each. Overall, you should be brushing for at least two minutes, but a little longer is preferable.
Brush Your Tongue
Brushing your teeth is about cleaning the whole mouth, including the tongue. The tongue is spongey, wet and full of crevices, which means it harbours most of the bacteria in the mouth. Therefore, brushing your tongue is an important step in protecting your teeth from bacteria and keeping your breath fresh. If you don’t like using your toothbrush on your tongue, there are special tongue scrapers you can buy.
Strictly Limit Chewing Gum
Despite the minty fresh sensation gum can give you, chewing it too much can cause problems. Excessive gum-chewing causes teeth to knock into each other, increasing the risk of chips and breaks. This is because teeth are designed to break down food, but gum is soft and can’t be broken down, no matter how long you keep chewing it. If you do chew gum, you should do it for no longer than ten minutes. When all of the flavour is gone, it’s time to get rid of it!
Dr Okoye also explains that chewing gum can have a harmful effect on the stomach. Chewing it makes your stomach make acid in preparation for receiving food. When no food is sent to the stomach, the lining can become irritated. In people who chew gum constantly, this can even cause stomach ulcers.
Make Sure You Floss
Flossing is a step that’s all too easy to miss out, but it can have a major impact on your gum health and, research has suggested, even prevent other illnesses. Studies have indicated that people with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease, perhaps because gum disease allows harmful bacteria to be released into the bloodstream, aiding the furring of arteries. Flossing helps you to avoid gum disease by ensuring that no harmful bacteria lingers between the teeth for too long.
“People should floss, ideally, every day but more realistically every other day,” says Dr Okoye. “You can do the classic wrap around two fingers, or you can get floss sticks that are already loaded. Then you can use them to get to the back teeth. What you’re doing is disturbing the bacteria so they don’t get a chance to grow and get hard.”
Whiten Teeth With Strawberries and Bicarbonate of Soda
Expensive teeth whitening procedures are more popular than ever, but Dr Okoye says you can whiten your teeth naturally with a combination of strawberries and bicarbonate of soda. She recommends mixing eight strawberries with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to create a paste which can be smeared over the teeth and rubbed in a little to whiten them. Strawberries contain ascorbic acid, which can help to remove surface stains and make teeth shine, and the bicarbonate of soda is abrasive, with similar stain-removing abilities.