childhood, we have been reminded time and again to brush our teeth
after every meal. Our parents painstakingly taught us the proper
way of how to brush and the reason why we should, and for a good
reason. Good oral hygiene promotes good oral health and prevents
a wide array of dental diseases from tooth decay, gingivitis (gum
disease), peridontis, to simple halitosis, more commonly known
as “bad breath”.
Common implements of tooth brushing are toothpaste and a trusty
toothbrush. Brushing our teeth has become mechanical to us; we
brush our teeth when we get up in the morning before or right
after we wash our faces, after dinner or before we head back
to bed, we again brush our teeth. Sometimes, people brush their
teeth after lunch as well, bringing their travel-sized toothbrushes
and toothpastes to work. It has become routine that it is appropriately
termed as “brushing habit”.
Initially “invented” to help heal and prevent oral
diseases centuries ago, the purpose of brushing has evolved into
making fresh breath, and now, to make teeth whiter with the addition
of whitening agents. Our ancestors only used to brush when they
had oral disease, then decided that to prevent these diseases,
brushing should be done more often. From a twice-a-year agenda,
tooth brushing has now become a twice-a-day habit for most people.
The reason why brushing is done after every meal is that it
removes the food debris left in our mouths—caught in between
teeth or buried in the crevices and pits of our molars. Food
particles, especially the carbohydrate-rich ones, are breeding
grounds for the bacteria that normally live in our mouths. The
breakdown products and the acid that they secrete cause enamel
damage, which is the beginning of tooth decay. This causes halitosis,
could cause gingivitis, and if left untreated, would eventually
lead to tooth loss.
Brushing frequently does not ensure good oral hygiene. Hence,
various health organizations and toothpaste advertisements have
demonstrated and promoted the “proper” brushing technique.
This includes the appropriate size of brush and toothpaste use,
and the technique, per se.
The appropriate toothbrush should have a handle that is suitable
for the user’s age, a bush head that is neither too big,
nor too small for the user, and soft rounded bristles of different
lengths to access the hard-to-reach crevices.
To execute brushing properly, one should use short back-and-forth
and up-and-down strokes. Clean the inner and outer surfaces of
the upper teeth first before the lower set of teeth. Special
attention should be paid to the areas with greater pits and fissures – molars
and premolars. Also, areas with fillings and restorations should
be minded. After brushing the teeth, the tongue and inner cheeks
should be brushed to prevent bad breath. Lastly, rinse and gargle.
Care should be taken not to gargle too much as to not wash away
the fluoride. On the average, it takes somewhere between 2-3
minutes to finish the procedure.
Brushing alone is not enough, which is why flossing is also
advised. Dental flossing reaches the areas in between teeth that
a toothbrush cannot. It is especially helpful in freeing meat
particles that get stuck between molars and the front teeth.
Flossing should be carefully carried out as gum injury may ensue.