Oral Hygiene

Brushing Basics

Why do we brush our teeth?
Brushing your teeth is one of the most effective ways of removing plaque from the exposed surfaces.

What’s the best kind of brush to use?

Contrary to what you might think, a gentle brushing with a soft-bristle toothbrush is just as effective (and less damaging!) than a vigorous scrubbing with a stiff-bristle toothbrush. Your tooth enamel is relatively thin. Years of aggressive brushing can begin to wear away the enamel and make the teeth sensitive. Remember, the enamel on your teeth does not contain nerve fibres but the dentine layer underneath does. Brushing too hard can also damage your gums.

What is the best way to brush?
There are different styles of tooth brushing. The important thing to remember is that effective brushing cleans every exposed tooth surface in a gentle, massaging motion. How long do you take to brush your teeth? Most people think they brush for at least a minute or two but in reality they brush for 30 seconds or less. Time yourself and see how you do. An effective brushing should take 2 to 3 minutes.

How do I brush my Teeth?

  • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
  • Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
  • Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces and the chewing surfaces of your teeth.
  • Use the “toe” of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.


How do I Floss my Teeth?

– Break off about 35cm of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers.
– Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the opposite hand so that about 1cm is between the fingers. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.
– Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
– Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.
– When the floss reaches your gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
– Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.
– Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.
– Don’t forget the back side of your last tooth.
– If you have a bridge, use superfloss or a floss threader to clean under the bridge.

People who have difficulty handling dental floss may prefer to use flossettes.
These aids include special brushes, picks or sticks and are available from our Dental Shop.
If you use interdental cleaners, ask us how to use them properly to avoid injuring your gums.


Are Electric Toothbrushes Recommended?

Electric toothbrushes can make a huge improvement to your oral hygiene. If you are very conscientious with a manual toothbrush then the difference is slight. However, if you use an electric toothbrush with an average technique and time, it will give far superior oral hygiene benefits compared to a manual toothbrush with an average technique.

Many people think that because it is electrical they can brush in half the time. This is not the case! A full two minutes is still needed. Some electric toothbrushes eg. Braun 3D, have a built in 2 minute timer that is extremely useful.

There is a different technique to using an electric brush. Rather than moving the brush around the mouth in a circular motion, let the brush do the work. Be systematic. Start at one corner of your mouth eg. the cheek surface of the back teeth, and slowly move the brush along the teeth towards your lips. Then make a second pass from the same start point but slightly lower down so that the junction of your gums and teeth is thoroughly cleaned. Repeat this for the inside of your teeth and then each of the other corners of the mouth. Don’t forget to brush the chewing surfaces as well.


Choosing a Toothpaste

Supermarkets carry a wide range of toothpastes; what do you look for?

Always choose a fluoride toothpaste because that is still one of the best ways to reduce dental decay. The paste should be mildly abrasive. Smoker’s toothpastes contain a coarse abrasive & should be avoided as they can cause widespread abrasion cavities.

Children’s toothpastes are recommended for children under 5 years old owing to their lower fluoride content (important for toddlers) and their mild taste.

Toothpastes for sensitive teeth can be very effective in alleviating sensitivity resulting from over brushing or for patients with receding gums. They contain special ingredients that coat the sensitive areas of exposed dentine. They do not work instantly but require a minimum of 10 to 14 days application.

Whitening toothpastes are relatively new to the market and are proving popular. They are slightly more effective at removing surface stains but they do not lighten the intrinsic colour of your teeth. Only a professionally applied whitening system can do that.

What causes tooth decay?

Your mouth is full of bacteria. It is in your saliva, your plaque… everywhere. It is impossible to get rid of these bacteria. Some thrive on turning sugars into acids, and it is these bugs that cause dental decay and cavities.

Each time you have any intake of sugar (even one mouthful), the bacteria produce acids that start to dissolve the teeth for around 50 minutes. It doesn’t even need to be sugar. Soft drinks (even sugar-free diet drinks) are acidic (read the ingredients labels!) so your teeth are attacked by the acid in the drink straight away and also from the acid produced by the bacteria. The net effect is that your teeth dissolve at an even faster rate.

Saliva neutralises the acids after about 50 minutes and your teeth stop dissolving. However, even just one more mouthful of a sugary food, or sip of a soft drink, and teeth will dissolve for another 50 minutes. With frequent snacks and soft drinks, your teeth will be dissolving every hour you’re awake. They just can’t recover and the result is cavities. It makes very little difference if you brush your teeth five times a day, your teeth will still dissolve, and cavities will result, guaranteed!

We all have to eat so what can you do to minimise decay? All you have to do is minimise the number of snacks, try to choose healthy snack options and if you need to eat sweets and treats incorporate them into your main meals. Result… No more decay! If you need to eat between meals some things are OK. Most dairy products and vegetables are fine to have as snacks. You can drink water, milk, coffee and tea (with artificial sweeteners). It sounds easy, and it is. The rest is up to you.

Tooth sensitivity – What causes it?

Causes include leaking fillings, decay, irritation of the nerve and quite commonly abrasions from over vigorous brushing. If you are suffering from tooth sensitivity, it is very important to visit us. We will be able to identify the cause so that it can be treated at an early stage. To leave the problem untreated will only allow it to worsen.

Tooth Abrasion Cavities – How can we help?

We will thoroughly examine your mouth to ascertain the likely cause of the sensitivity. Quite often it is due to toothbrush abrasion. A simple change in your brushing technique using a soft-bristled brush will achieve an improvement. Switching to Sensodyne toothpaste may also help. These steps will prevent a worsening of the condition. More advanced abrasion may require protection with a special coating or a white filling to protect the exposed dentine.

If a leaking filling or tooth decay causes the sensitivity then we will need to replace your filling.

How can it be prevented?
-Correct brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush.
-Use of an electric toothbrush can significantly reduce abrasion.
-Regular check-ups will ensure that problems are identified before they become symptomatic.