We brush our teeth for lots of reasons. It cleans away plaque. It prevents tartar buildup. It keeps teeth white and shiny. If you use an oxygenating specialty toothpaste, it can kill bacteria and prevent halitosis. But all this depends on brushing the right way.
According to Dr. Priya Patel, who recently wrote a Washington Times column on the subject, bad brushing can actually hurt your teeth and lead to bad breath.
The right brush, paste and technique
"Most people complain of dental problems even after brushing their teeth on a regular basis," Patel wrote. "This is because the brushing methods that they follow are incorrect."
If you think she couldn't be referring to you, don't be so sure. Her list of correct brushing techniques is fairly long, and, in our experience, most people don't maintain a full brushing routine.
The first thing to realize is that, in order to avoid halitosis, you need the right dental equipment. Not any old toothbrush and toothpaste will do. For starters, your brush needs to have very soft bristles. Hard, stiff bristles can wear away dental enamel very quickly, leading to small gray scratches on the tooth surface, which can open the door for cavities.
Also, an oxygenating toothpaste is essential. Regular pastes rely on synthetic chemicals to clean teeth, but such compounds just irritate the sensitive tissues of your mouth, making canker sores more likely. Instead, try specialty pastes that use all-natural ingredients to oxygenate and whiten your teeth.
Now, for the proper technique.
Brushing your teeth the right way
The American Dental Association recommends the following when brushing your teeth:
- Begin by tilting the brush at a 45-degree angle, so that the bristle tips are angled up a bit, toward your gums.
- Brush in short, gentle strokes, using a circular or oval motion. Try to give each tooth a separate scrubbing.
- Be sure to hit the outside and inside of all your teeth, as well as their chewing surfaces.
- Finally, give your tongue a good brushing or, even better, a cleaning with a specialty tongue scraper.
- Brush for at least two minutes.
- Remember to shake out your toothbrush, since leaving water in it can let bacteria grow on the bristles.