Q Why is brushing important?
A Daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth is
important because it removes plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed, it
continues to build up, feeding on the food debris left behind and
causing tooth decay and gum disease.
Q How can plaque cause decay?
A When you eat food containing sugars and starches, the
bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The
stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth. After
this happens many times, the tooth enamel can break down forming a hole
Q How can plaque cause gum disease?
A Plaque can harden into something called calculus
another name for it is ‘tartar’. As calculus forms near the gumline, the
plaque underneath releases poisons causing the gums to become irritated
and inflamed. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth and the gaps
If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is
destroyed and healthy teeth may be lost. Gum disease is the biggest
cause of tooth loss in adults and can lead to dentures, bridges or
Q How can I prevent gum disease?
A It is important to remove plaque and food debris from
around your teeth, as this will stop your gums from swelling and
becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can develop into
tartar, which can only be removed by the dentist or hygienist. It is
important to keep up your regular appointments so
that your teeth can have a thorough cleaning if they need it.
Q How do I know if I have gum disease?
A Gum disease (gingivitis) will show itself as red,
swollen gums that bleed when brushed or flossed. Many people are alarmed
when they notice this bleeding and will then brush more gently, if at
all. It is important that you continue to clean regularly and firmly in
order to fight the condition.
Q Which type of toothbrush should I use?
A Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to
recommend a toothbrush to you. However, adults should choose a small to
medium size brush with soft to medium multi-tufted, round-ended nylon
bristles or ‘filaments’. The head should be small enough to get into all
parts of the mouth: especially the back of the mouth where cleaning can
be difficult. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same
type of filaments.
You can now get more specialised toothbrushes. For instance, people
with sensitive teeth can now use softer bristled brushes. There are also
smaller headed toothbrushes for those people with crooked or irregular
Some people find it difficult to hold a toothbrush, for example
because they have Parkinson’s disease or a physical disability. There
are now toothbrushes, which have large handles and angled heads to make
them easier to use.
Q How often should I change my toothbrush?
A Worn-out toothbrushes cannot clean your teeth
properly and may damage your gums. It is important to change your
toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if the filaments become
worn. When filaments become splayed, they do not clean properly.
Q How should I brush?
A Brushing removes plaque and food particles from the
inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth.
Here is one method of removing plaque:
- Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth and angle
against the gumline. Move the brush in small circular movements,
several times, on all the surfaces of each individual tooth.
- Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping
the bristles angled against the gumline.
- Use the same method on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.
- Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush
vertically and make several small circular strokes with the toe (the
front part) of the brush.
- Brushing your tongue will help freshen your breath and will
clean your mouth by removing bacteria.
Q How often should I brush my teeth?
A Be sure to brush thoroughly with a fluoride
toothpaste at least twice a day, more often if your dentist recommends
it. If you keep getting discomfort or bleeding after brushing go to see
your dentist about it.