How Often Should You Really Brush Your Teeth?
We’ve all grown up hearing about the importance of brushing our teeth on a regular basis. Of course, many of us have heard conflicting information on the subject as well. Some sources insist once per day is enough as long as the timing is right. Others say we should brush our teeth at least three times per day, once after every meal and snack.
Which one is accurate? Just how often do you need to brush? Which measures does it take to truly protect your teeth against plaque and tartar buildup, cavities, gum disease, and other issues?
At Wilmot Family Dentistry, we’re here to answer those questions once and for all.
How Often Should I Brush My Teeth?
In general, the American Dental Association recommends brushing twice each day, once in the morning and once in the evening or at night.
Hundreds of strains of bacteria naturally live in the mouth. Sugars, acids, and other substances exist in the mouth as well. They come together to form plaque and tartar buildup on our teeth and can cause extensive damage without routine brushing.
Brushing your teeth in the mornings gets rid of all the buildup that develops overnight and helps ward off the notorious morning breath so many of us suffer from when we wake up. Buildup starts to redevelop as soon as we finish brushing our teeth as well.
As we eat and drink over the course of the day, it continually grows worse.
Brushing in the evenings or just before bedtime reduces the harmful bacteria, sugar, and acid our teeth are exposed to while we sleep to further keep dental damage at bay.
Digging Deeper into Tooth Protection
Having said all that, certain variables can alter the equation a bit. Some people need to brush their teeth more frequently than others. If you smoke, your teeth are more prone to damage than they would be otherwise.
Smoking affects the teeth in many ways. For one, it covers the teeth in even more damaging substances than food, beverages, and natural bacteria. These include tar and numerous chemicals.
At the same time, smoking can hamper your immune system and make you particularly vulnerable to infections from oral bacteria. Smoking also makes you slower to heal from infections. All that makes you more susceptible to gum disease and other problems. Smokers should consider brushing their teeth three times per day or more to further reduce the risks.
Additionally, if you consume a great deal of soda, fruit and juices, sweets, and other foods and drinks that contain acids and sugars, you may want to go above and beyond the standard twice-daily brushings. Those items greatly increase your risk of cavities and place additional wear and tear on your teeth and gums.
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When Should I Brush My Teeth?
We’ve already mentioned that brushing your teeth in the mornings and at night is essential. Still, precise timing is also important. Keep in mind, brushing your teeth and consuming foods and beverages can temporarily soften the enamel covering your teeth and make it more porous.
As such, you need to time your brushing sessions accordingly. When you brush your teeth, be sure to wait at least thirty minutes before eating or drinking anything. If you eat or drink something beforehand, try to wait at least thirty minutes afterward to brush. This will help minimize the impact sugars and acids have on your teeth and reduce your risk of tooth sensitivity.
Should I Follow a Specific Brushing Strategy?
This is another area in which a great deal of confusion has come to light. Some experts recommend brushing with an up-and-down motion whereas others say making small circles is best. Truthfully, how you brush isn’t as important as simply ensuring you cover all the exposed surfaces of your teeth all the way to the gumline. Be sure you brush for at least two minutes per session as well.
Other Dental Care Measures to Consider
Brushing at least twice a day thirty minutes before or after eating and doing so for at least two minutes per session is crucial. That’s only part of a well-rounded dental care routine, though. Keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible also requires additional measures.
Flossing or using a water pick is important, too. It’ll get rid of all the food particles and buildup in between your teeth that the toothbrush can’t possibly reach. Consider rinsing with an alcohol- and sugar-free mouthwash as well. Mouthwash helps eliminate the bacteria and buildup in your mouth that are often left behind after brushing and flossing. Because of that, it’ll reduce your risk of cavities, periodontitis, and other dental issues.
On top of that, we can’t stress enough the importance of twice-annual dental cleanings. Professional cleanings remove the buildup you may not be able to see or get rid of on your own. It also gives us a chance to catch cavities and other developing problems early, so we can start treating them before they have a chance to spread.
Are the Rules the Same for Children?
Yes, the rules for proper brushing and routine cleanings are the same for children as they are for adults. Be careful about the amount of toothpaste your children use, though. Infants and toddlers should use a drop of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Those ages three and older should use a pea-sized amount. That’ll help minimize the risk of swallowing.
When it comes to mouthwash, the ADA recommends waiting until the age of six. Too much fluoride can negatively affect young children’s teeth. They’re generally unable to control their reflexes enough to keep from swallowing or getting strangled on mouthwash before that age as well.
Ideally, flossing should begin once children have teeth that touch. Of course, in many cases, it’s best to wait until the little ones are able to understand just what you’re doing, so they won’t fight you or be overly confused and frightened by the situation. If you’re trying to floss a frightened toddler’s teeth, you could inadvertently injure his or her gums.
Keeping Your Teeth and Gums in Top-Notch Condition
In a nutshell, it’s best to brush your teeth for two minutes twice per day. Mouthwash and floss can help boost the effectiveness of your daily dental care routine. Be sure to visit your dentist at least twice each year for professional cleanings as well. All these measures can help keep your smile bright and your teeth and gums healthy.