It’s the ‘golden rule’ of oral hygiene - brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day. But how does brushing our teeth actually help to support our oral health? And what’s the best way to brush effectively in order to keep decay and cavities at bay?
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of brushing and provide some handy tips to help you keep your tooth brushing habits at their best!
What causes tooth decay?
Firstly, it’s important to be aware that even with twice-daily tooth brushing, tooth decay can still occur, as we all have the bacteria that cause decay living in our mouths.
For some people, being naturally predisposed to demineralisation - where the teeth leach minerals that soften them - means they’re more likely to develop tooth decay. For others, underlying health issues can result in weaker teeth that are at higher risk of tooth decay.
In many cases, tooth decay is caused by a diet that’s high in sugary and acidic foods and beverages. These substances are consumed by bacteria in your mouth, which produces acid that damages the tooth surface and causes cavities (tooth decay).
How does tooth brushing prevent tooth decay?
Ok, so we’ve established that brushing your teeth can’t get rid of all the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Now for the good news - regular tooth brushing helps to keep these bacteria under control, meaning you can reduce your chances of developing tooth decay, as well as gum disease.
Brushing your teeth regularly (twice a day) will lower the amount of bacteria and plaque on your teeth and gums, helping to avoid these bacteria from feasting on sugars and producing the acid that causes tooth decay.
Need to brush up on your tooth brushing technique? Here are some simple tips:
● Clean your teeth and along the gum line twice a day - once in the morning and once before bed - for two minutes at a time.
● Use a toothbrush with soft bristles, ideally an electric toothbrush that does the hard work for you.
● Between the ages of 18 months and five years, it’s best to use a low-fluoride toothpaste; after this, use a standard fluoride toothpaste.
● Gently brush teeth and the gum line, making sure to brush each tooth on the front, back and chewing surface.
● Help your child to brush correctly until you’re confident they can do this properly by themselves (usually around the age of seven or eight).
● If you have braces, ask your dentist about the best way to brush these in order to prevent debris and decay.
Can tooth brushing help to prevent gum disease?
It certainly can. Bacteria in the mouth create a substance called dental plaque - when this plaque builds up on the gum line, it can cause gum disease (also known as Gingivitis) and lead to inflamed, bleeding gums that appear red and swollen.
If gum disease is left untreated, it can damage the tissue, fibres and bone that support the teeth, potentially leading to tooth loss.
Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once per day, and making sure you visit your dentist regularly for check-ups will all help to reduce your risk of developing gum disease.
What else can I do to prevent tooth decay?
As mentioned above, flossing once per day is an important step in minimising your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. In addition, keeping up to date with your six-monthly dental check-ups will help to identify any oral health issues sooner, before they develop into more serious concerns.
Limiting your intake of sugary and acidic foods and drinks is a surefire way to reduce your risk of tooth decay, so be mindful of high-sugar snacks and acidic beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juice.
Are you due for your regular dental check-up and clean? You can make an appointment at your local National Dental Care or DB Dental practice now.