While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Some of the bristles will actually be on the gum tissue. Gently move the brush in a circular or side to side motion several times using small, gentle strokes. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between the teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort. Heavy brushing forces can cause gum recession. We generally recommend “extra soft” or “sensitive” toothbrushes. Brushes should be held with a light grip and in the fingertips as opposed to a tight-fisted grip.
When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions while cleaning the inside of the back teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.
Next you will clean the biting surfaces of your teeth. To do this use short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.
If you have any pain while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please be sure to call the office.
How to Floss
Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.
Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18″ long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.
To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in to place. Bring the floss to the gum line then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space. Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, turn from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.
To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefinger of both hands. Do not forget the backside of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.
When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.
Caring For Sensitive Teeth
Sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. This should not last long, but only if the mouth is kept clean. Plaque acids can make teeth more sensitive. If you shy away from adequately cleaning sensitive areas, the sensitivity will remain and could become more severe. If your teeth are especially sensitive, consult with your doctor. They may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth. In addition, we have found that tartar control and whitening toothpastes will increase sensitivity in many patients. We recommend a plain, fluoride-containing toothpaste. Kids toothpaste or “sensitive” toothpastes are generally good as well.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
There are so many products on the market it can become confusing and choosing between all the products can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for choosing dental care products that will work for most patients.
Automatic and “high-tech” electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of the patients. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator. These irrigators are not a substitute for brushing and flossing. We see excellent results with electric toothbrushes such as the Oral B/Braun (use the sensitive head) and the Phillips Sonicare.
There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth. These are called interproximal brushes or proxy-brushes. These can be some of the most effective tools for periodontal patients when used properly. We will usually demonstrate the proper use of interproximal brushes at your visits to our office.
If used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses can reduce tooth decay as much as 40 percent. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age.
Your periodontist is the best person to help you select the right products that are best for you.
Daily brushing and flossing will keep dental plaque to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove plaque and calculus in places your toothbrush and floss have missed. Visit your periodontist, as he or she is an important part of your program to prevent gum disease. Keep your teeth for your lifetime.