How to clean your teeth

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Experts explain the right way to clean your teeth to keep them strong and healthy

The FDI World Dental Federation tells us that 2.3 billion people across the world suffer from tooth caries of permanent teeth. “One of the most important reasons for this is not cleaning our teeth properly. This can lead to the formation of a sticky layer called plaque in which bacteria called Streptococcus mutans proliferate. It produces an acid that demineralises our teeth, which in turn leads to cavities, gum problems, and eventually loss of teeth,” explains Dr K Abhirami, orthodontist and associate professor, Department of Dental Surgery, PSGIMSR, Coimbatore.

When should we clean our teeth?

We should brush our teeth twice daily: in the morning when we wake up and at night before sleep. “As the natural cleansing action happening in our teeth is minimum at night, it is important to clean and remove any of the residual food particles from our teeth before we go to sleep. Make sure not to eat anything post this. Also, brush your teeth in the morning to clean any of the bacterial build-up at night,” says Dr Mathew Baby, public health dentist, Tooth Fairy Dental Clinic, Ernakulam.

The process

While children can use brushes specifically designed for their age, adults can choose a soft or medium bristled toothbrush. The brush should be replaced once in three months. For toothpaste, any brand which contains fluoride can be used. “It protects teeth from cavities and the optimum level of fluoride is between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm,” explains Dr Abhirami.

Brush for two minutes with a pea-size amount of toothpaste. The angle of the bristles should be such that it reaches the gum line. “Brush in a small circular massage-like motion and cover the entire surface of your teeth. Do not be too harsh. Also, avoid a horizontal motion as that can be abrasive,” explains Dr Mathew.

Air-dry the brush after each use and store each one’s separately, or, “It can cause bacterial transfer,” says Dr Abhirami. She also recommends using dental floss and mouthwash once every day. “Floss helps to clean in between the teeth. Do not use anything else like toothpicks or pins to clean these areas. Also, most of the commercially available mouth washes tend to be strong and cause a mild burning sensation. To avoid this, dilute it with water in a 1:1 ratio before using,” she adds.

For children

Cleaning of teeth should begin as soon as the first teeth appear, usually when a child is around six months old. One can begin by wiping the teeth with a wet washcloth or a soft silicone brush. As your child is around one, introduce a small-sized, soft-bristled brush. Dr Gopika Sharma, consultant paediatric and preventive dentist, Phoenix Hospital, New Delhi, explains, “Initially just wet it to make it soft before using it. Later, introduce a grain size amount of fluoride toothpaste. After brushing, keep rinsing to a minimum to benefit from the fluoride in the paste. After three years of age, toothpaste can be a pea-size amount.”

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