Dental Care: Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth

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Dental Care: Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth

Introduction

Your teeth can last a lifetime if you practice basic dental care, which involves brushing and flossing regularly, eating a mouth-healthy diet, and visiting your dentist and/or dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings. Developing good dental health habits is the best way to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

 

Good brushing and flossing are important parts of your dental care. To do these actions well, make them part of your daily routine and:

  • Brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and at night. When you brush, use a fluoride toothpaste recognized by the Canadian Dental Association. Some fluoride toothpastes also offer tartar control, which may help slow the formation of hard mineral buildup (tartar) on the teeth.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Use disclosing tablets periodically to see whether any plaque is left on the teeth. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will colour any plaque left on the teeth after you brush. You can buy them at most drugstores.

Test Your Knowledge

You should brush your teeth once a day, before bed.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    You should brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and at night.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    You should brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and at night.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Regular brushing and flossing can help you:

  • Prevent tooth decay and cavities. Tooth decay can lead to more serious problems, such as infection.
  • Prevent gum (periodontal) disease, which can damage gum tissue and the bones that support the teeth, and can ultimately cause you to lose teeth.
  • Make it possible that your teeth will last a lifetime.
  • Shorten the time you spend with the dentist and hygienist and make the trip more pleasant.
  • Save money. By preventing tooth decay and gum disease, you can reduce the need for fillings and other costly procedures.
  • Prevent bad breath. Brushing and flossing rid your mouth of the bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Keep your teeth white by preventing staining from food, drinks, and tobacco.
  • Improve your overall health.

Test Your Knowledge

You need to brush and floss to prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Brushing and flossing do help prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. And they also make your trip to the dentist more pleasant, save you money, prevent bad breath, and keep your teeth whiter. If you brush and floss, your teeth can last a lifetime.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Brushing and flossing do help prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. And they also make your trip to the dentist more pleasant, save you money, prevent bad breath, and keep your teeth whiter. If you brush and floss, your teeth can last a lifetime.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

When you brush your teeth:

  • Brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and at night.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and a head that is small enough to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
  • You may also use an electric toothbrush that has been recognized by the Canadian Dental Association. Studies show that powered toothbrushes with a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action are more effective than other toothbrushes, including other powered toothbrushes.1
  • Place the brush at a 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Press firmly, and gently rock the brush back and forth using small circular movements. Do not scrub. Vigorous brushing can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.
  • Brush all surfaces of the teeth, tongue-side and cheek-side. Pay special attention to the front teeth and all surfaces of the back teeth.
  • Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short back-and-forth strokes.
  • Brush your tongue from back to front. Some people put some toothpaste or mouthwash on their toothbrush when they do this. Brushing your tongue helps remove plaque, which can cause bad breath and help bacteria grow. Some toothbrushes now have a specific brush to use for your tongue.

Floss at least once a day. The type of floss you use is not important. Choose the type and flavour you like best. When you floss your teeth, use any of the following methods:

  • The finger wrap method: Cut off a piece of floss 45 cm (18 in.) to 50 cm (20 in.) long. Wrap one end around your left middle finger and the other end around your right middle finger, until your hands are about 5 cm (2 in.) to 8 cm (3 in.) apart.
  • The circle method: Use a piece of floss about 30 cm (12 in.) long. Tie the ends together, forming a loop. If the loop is too large, wrap the floss around your fingers to make it smaller.

Gently work the floss between the teeth toward the gums. Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape and gently slide it under the gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the plaque. Popping the floss in and out between the teeth without scraping will not remove much plaque and can hurt your gums.

A plastic flossing tool makes flossing easier. Child-size flossing tools are available for parents to use to floss their children's teeth. They are available at most drugstores.

If your gums bleed when you floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter next to your teeth.

Test Your Knowledge

It is better to brush my teeth with gentle, circular motions than to scrub vigorously.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Gentle brushing with a soft toothbrush keeps your teeth and gums healthy. Brushing too hard can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Gentle brushing with a soft toothbrush keeps your teeth and gums healthy. Brushing too hard can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.

  •  

If my gums bleed when I floss, it means that I probably should not floss.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    If you have just started flossing your teeth and your gums bleed when you floss, it probably means that your gums are not used to cleaning. The bleeding after flossing should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter next to your teeth. Talk to your dentist if the bleeding after flossing does not stop after a few days of regular flossing.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    If you have just started flossing your teeth and your gums bleed when you floss, it probably means that your gums are not used to cleaning. The bleeding after flossing should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter next to your teeth. Talk to your dentist if the bleeding after flossing does not stop after a few days of regular flossing.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

For more information about brushing, flossing, and the care of your teeth, talk to your dentist and dental hygienist.

If you would like to learn more about oral health care and prevention of oral disease, the following organizations can provide information:

Organizations

Canadian Dental Association
1815 Alta Vista Drive
Ottawa, ON  K1G 3Y6
Phone: (613) 523-1770
Email: reception@cda-adc.ca
Web Address: www.cda-adc.ca
 

The Canadian Dental Association, the professional membership organization of dentists, provides information regarding oral health care for children and adults.


Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA)
96 Centrepointe Drive
Ottawa, ON  K2G 6B1
Phone: 1-800-267-5235
(613) 224-5515
Fax: (613) 224-7283
Email: info@cdha.ca
Web Address: www.cdha.ca
 

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) is a professional association of dental hygienists in Canada and helps represents them in the development of policies and standards related to dental hygiene practice, education, research, and regulation. The CDHA Web site offers an Oral Care Centre with a variety of information about dental hygiene for the general public.


Canadian Paediatric Society
2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Ottawa, ON  K1G 4J8
Phone: (613) 526-9397
Fax: (613) 526-3332
Email: info@cps.ca
Web Address: www.cps.ca
 

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.


Health Canada: Healthy Living
Web Address: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/index-eng.php
 

Health Canada's webpage on sexually transmitted infections provides information to help you make informed choices about your health in areas such as healthy eating, physical activity, pregnancy, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health. You'll also find information intended for specific groups, such as children, women, and seniors, and for specific areas of interest, including travel, injury prevention, and substance use and abuse.


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References

Citations

  1. Robinson PG, et al. (2005). Manual versus powered toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update Software.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised June 7, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.