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  Tooth Brushing  
Since 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.

Tooth Brushing

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.

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