When You Brush, Make It Count!

In 2014, the American Dental Association (ADA) released a survey by Delta Dental on the oral hygiene habits of American adults. The findings showed that only 70 percent of Americans brush their teeth at least twice a day (typically once at bedtime and once in the morning).

A particular concern were the number of adults who admitted to going more than 24 hours without brushing. The survey revealed that 23 percent have gone two or more days without brushing. The number rises for those in the 18 – 24 age group, with almost 37 percent going two or more days without brushing. (

In a more recent article published by U.S. News, about 30 percent of surveyed Americans say they floss daily with about 37 percent being less-frequent flossers. Nearly a third of American adults, or thirty-two percent, say they never floss. (

It only takes 48 hours for bacteria to accumulate into masses that go from plaque (a sticky film on teeth that can be brushed off) to the cement-hard tartar that attaches to teeth. Tartar (or calculus) is what your hygienist is scraping off teeth during cleanings. It is a hardened colony of bacteria that can no longer be brushed or flossed away.

Oral bacteria accumulation is also what causes your gums to be tender. When improper or infrequent brushing fails to remove oral bacteria from tooth surfaces, it causes the gums to become inflamed. For example, a cut that is not cared for will become red and swollen as bacteria overwhelm the capabilities of the immune system. It’s the same in your mouth.

However, just dabbing toothpaste on a toothbrush and swiping it over teeth twice a day isn’t going to do much in the way of removing oral bacteria. Like anything, doing a good job – using proper techniques – will get you the desired results.

Below are some tips to help you get the most from your time at the sink!

• Brush twice daily, preferably in the morning and before bedtime. Take your time. Spend at least 2 minutes each time. Use a medium or soft bristle toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste. Brush in a circular motion, reaching all sides and the tops of teeth. Use a light pressure so the tips of the bristles only come into contact with teeth surfaces. If you notice your bristles are starting to splay out after a month or so, you’re pressing down too hard. This makes brushing less effective and can wear down tender gum tissues around teeth.

• If manual dexterity is a challenge, consider using an electronic toothbrush. These are designed to do an efficient job and make reaching awkward angles easier. They all do a good job but, as with manual brushing, don’t apply too much pressure and be sure to reach all of a tooth’s surface – sides and tops. Be sure to replace the brush heads every 3-4 months or as recommended by the maker.

• After brushing teeth, make several swipes with a tongue scraper or use your toothbrush on your tongue after tooth brushing. Some manual toothbrushes have a surface for this purpose on the back side of the bristles. After, swish with water several times. This action helps to remove millions of bacteria embedded in the tongue. Be sure to get towards the back of the tongue where most bacteria are embedded.

• Floss daily. If you struggle with this, ask your hygienist for a flossing lesson at your next appointment. You may also want to consider using an electronic water flosser. These have proven to be just as effective as manual flossing. Once you are in the habit of flossing each day, you’ll find the process is easy and only requires a minute or so.

It’s important to have good oral health. Research now shows that the destructive bacteria in your mouth can cause even more problems than periodontal (gum) disease and cavities. Studies has shown that the bacteria of advanced gum disease is linked to serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimers disease, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, some cancers, impotency and erectile dysfunction.

With proper brushing techniques and flossing, your smile will be brighter and your breath will be fresher! Plus, you’ll be supporting your overall health. If you’re behind on your 6-month dental checkups and cleanings, let us help you achieve a confident, healthy smile. Call 219-987-5733 to schedule.