Let’s brush up: Is the way you brush damaging?

Any amount of importance given about the correct brushing technique is less. It is the single most common and the easiest way of maintaining a healthy mouth. That said, improper brushing technique or timing can be more damaging than useful.

Brushing is something taught very early in life. We develop the technique that we shall be using the rest of our life for brushing by the age of 2-3 years. Eventually we don’t pay much attention to the way we hold the brush, the strokes we give or even the duration we brush for. It becomes an involuntary practice that needs to be done preferably twice a day.

That brings us to the big question.

“If we all brush at least once a day why do we still have oral issues?” 

Well the answer is simple. Despite brushing once or twice a day we DO NOT generally brush EFFECTIVELY to remove all the bacteria sticking to the teeth. These bacteria are one of the major cause of cavities and other tooth related issues including tooth pain, loosening of the teeth, gum swelling and so on.

What is the most important factor of EFFECTIVE brushing?

I get this question a lot. I am often asked which is the best toothpaste to be used or which brand of brush is the best.

The thing about effective brushing is that it hardly depends on the “brand” of the brush or the toothpaste used. Although some factors like

·         Using a “medium” bristle tooth brush

·         Discarding the brush after the bristles fray

·         Changing to a new brush after an episode of flu


·         Avoiding the use of abrasive tooth powders

Do play a role in maintaining adequate oral health. The most important factor for EFFECTIVE brushing is the TECHNIQUE USED FOR BRUSHING

What is the correct technique for effective brushing?

Although multiple techniques have been suggested the most accepted technique for effective brushing is known as the “Modified Bass Method”

The steps are as follows

·         Starting from the outer surface of the last tooth on one side of the jaw, place the brush at an angle of 45 degrees at the junction of the tooth and the gums

·         Around 2 -3 teeth are in contact with the brush at a point of time

·         Move the brush in small circular motions covering the entire surface of the teeth as well as a little beyond the tooth-gums junction (it is this junction between the tooth and the gums where the bacterial colonies accumulate)

·         Give around 10-15 circular strokes on the teeth before moving ahead.

·         After the outer surface of the teeth are cleaned the next step are the inner surfaces. Keeping the brush at the same angle of 45 degrees to the tooth gum junction, move the brush in short back and forth strokes covering the entire surface of teeth and the junctional area.

·         The inner surface of the front teeth need to be cleaned differently by tilting the brush vertically and giving short up and down strokes.

·         After the inner surfaces of all the teeth in both the jaws are cleaned, clench the front teeth and brush on both the jaws together with circular strokes covering the tooth surface and the tooth-gum junction.

Make sure that all the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned. Special attention needs to be given to the backward facing surface of the last tooth, as it is generally ignored. It is required to brush around this surface in order to prevent gum diseases and cavities in this area.

What are the areas that need special attention during brushing?

Effective brushing is not only about the technique, but also the right technique applied to ALL surfaces of the teeth. Some areas of the mouth are more prone to the colonization and the accumulation of bacteria than others.

It is extremely important that these areas are cleaned effectively in order to maintain adequate oral hygiene. These areas include

·         The molar areas in the upper jaw

·         The inner surface of the lower front teeth (it is the most common site of tartar accumulation, even in people who otherwise have good oral hygiene)

·         The last tooth and the backward facing surface of the last tooth which is generally missed during brushing

Morning or evening? When is it more important to brush?

 EVENING! Surprising right? If you choose to brush once a day (which is NOT recommended or advisable) brush at night before sleeping.

The reason behind it being that the normal salivary flow, which acts as a natural cleanser of the mouth is decreased at night. This decreased salivary flow causes more bacteria to accumulate and colonize on the teeth. Brushing before sleeping helps in disrupting these bacterial colonies thus impeding their growth at night.

Thus, it is more important to brush at night than during in the morning after getting up.

The average duration of brushing should be around 1.5 to 2 minutes. Once the proper technique is followed, you will feel that the surface of the teeth is smoother when you run you tongue across them. This is a sign of effective brushing and will help you prevent a vast majority of oral issues.

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