It’s not exactly a newsflash that one of the most important reasons to brush your teeth is to fight off cavities (not to mention prevent bad breath). But what if the way you brush your teeth actually makes you more susceptible to cavities, tooth decay and gum disease? Scary . Turns out, there are a host of common mistakes that many of us make morning and night that can damage teeth and turn a healthy smile upside-down… You don’t brush for long enough
Most people don’t spend nearly enough time brushing their teeth, notes prosthodontist Michael Lenchner. Dentists recommend brushing for two or three minutes, but few people ever make it to that. Next time, check your watch to see how long your routine takes. Chances are, whether you’re rushing to get to work or ready to collapse into bed, you’re only brushing for a minute or so.
You’re not watching what you’re doing
Make a point to look in the mirror while you brush your teeth. It’s easy to miss the area right at the gum line, which is the most important part. That’s where plaque, tartar and bacteria can build up, which cause the gums to become infected (aka gingivitis). Also keep a close eye on the back molars. If the brush head hits your cheek before you get to them you could miss them completely.
Your technique needs a major makeover
Enamel is made of tightly packed, glass-like rods that extend out toward the surface of the tooth.When you brush side-to-side, these brittle rods can break, leading to cracks and weakening teeth. So, hold the brush so the bristles are at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the teeth and brush in small circles. It’s okay to brush in straight lines on the chewing surfaces. After completing your circles, brush away from the gum line to clear off loosened plaque and bacteria.
You’re brushing too hard
The chances of enamel breakage are greater when you brush too hard. And sideways brushing can cause notches near the gum line called abfraction lesions. With continued pressure, they can deepen into the tooth’s inner dentin and cementum layers. What’s more, aggressive brushing can be traumatic for sensitive gums, causing irritation and recession.
You’re using the wrong brush
Be sure to buy soft or ultrasoft brushes to minimise damage. Lenchner warns, though, that even softbristled toothbrushes can cause abrasions if used incorrectly . “Electric toothbrushes are great tools if they help you brush longer and get you to the right places,” Lenchner says. If your dentist gives you a special brush for cleaning implants or crowns, only use it as directed so you don’t disrupt proper gum growth.
Use and allow it to dry completely
As horrifying as it may sound, your toothbrush can be a veritable haven for germs, including strep and staph. You should replace a regular toothbrush every three months -sooner if the bristles look worn, frayed and bent. Over time, the bristles get damaged, like split ends in your hair, and bacteria nestle in those tiny tears. To minimise germs’ day-to-day growth, rinse your brush with hot water after use and allow it to dry completely.
You have the wrong toothpaste
Baking soda toothpastes are good at getting stains out because they are abrasive -but that also means they’re hard on enamel. It’s a trade off that might not be worth it. As for whitening toothpastes, Lenchner says that to his knowledge they don’t hurt your teeth.
You don’t rinse after
Effective brushing and flossing unbind bacteria-laden plaque from the surface of teeth. Rinsing afterward is a key step to make sure that bacteria leave your mouth for good. Swish with a germ-killing, alcohol-free mouthwash, or use a fluoride rinse to strengthen and fortify tooth enamel and prevent cavities. If you don’t have mouthwash, a good rinse-and-spit with water is better than nothing.
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