Oral hygiene

Tooth brushing

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with a soft-to-medium brush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Put the bristles at the join between teeth and gums, pointing towards the gums, and brush using short circular movements.
  • Brush all round every tooth, carefully making sure you can feel the brush on your gums.
  • Don't use too much force - give your teeth and gums a gentle scrub. Thorough brushing takes two or three minutes; why not time yourself?
  • After brushing, you should spit out the toothpaste - but do not rinse, as this lessens the effect of the fluoride.
  • Replace the brush when the bristles get out of shape.

Toothbrush

Choose a toothbrush with a small head so you can get to all the teeth. The bristles should be either soft or medium to help prevent damaging your teeth by brushing too hard.

Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months as they become less effective when the bristles begin to splay. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and it can also prevent bad breath. Everyone should have their own toothbrush.

Toothpaste

Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Regular toothbrushing by itself will not prevent tooth decay, but there is a definite benefit from regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste. Dental scientists agree that fluoride toothpaste use has been the main cause of the decline in dental decay in Europe during the last three decades.

Care should be taken to ensure that young children do not eat toothpaste. Children under 7 years of age should be supervised when brushing to make sure they do it properly. Only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is recommended for children under 7 and a tiny smear for babies.

Flossing

Dentists and dental hygienists will often recommend that you floss your teeth as part of your oral care routine. Flossing your teeth helps remove plaque and bacteria from between your teeth and from under your gum line, helping you in the battle against tooth decay and gum disease.

Care must be taken when flossing or you could damage your gums. It can be tricky to get used to at first, but we've come up with a step-by-step guide to help you. You may want to ask your dentist or hygienist for a flossing demonstration but generally it is advised that you:

  • Take a length of floss about 45cm (18 inches) long;
  • Wrap the ends around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving 5-7cm (or 2-3 inches) between the fingers;
  • Using the forefingers and thumbs to grasp the floss near the middle, slide the floss into the space between two teeth. Be careful not to force or snap the floss between the contact areas, as this may injure the gum line. If the contact area is very tight gently slide the floss horizontally forward and back until it squeezes through;
  • Curve the floss, in a 'C' shape, around the tooth with fingers as close to the tooth as possible;
  • Move the floss up and down the side of the tooth several times, gently stroking the plaque away from the gums and off the teeth;
  • Then pull the floss out of the space between the teeth;
  • Wind more floss onto one middle finger and off the other to reveal a fresh piece as it becomes soiled;
  • Repeat with the side of the next tooth and continue around the mouth.
  • You may wish to rinse after flossing to remove any debris.

Visit the dentist

A dental examination shows how healthy your mouth is. After the examination, you and your dentist can discuss the results and plan the best way to deal with any problems.

What will my dentist do?

As well as looking in your mouth, the dentist will ask you some questions. These may include the following:

  • Why you've come for an examination.
  • Any problems you've noticed (such as pain or sensitivity).
  • Your general health and any medicines you might be taking (because these can affect your dental care).
  • Your diet (because sugary snacks and drinks can cause tooth decay, and because a balanced diet is important to your general health and resistance to disease).
  • How you clean your teeth (because correct cleaning helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease).
  • Tobacco and alcohol use (because both can harm your mouth as well as your general health).
  • Some of the questions will depend on what the dentist sees in your mouth.

You should expect your dentist to:

  • look at your face and neck to see that they are healthy;
  • feel under your jaw;
  • look inside your mouth, at your tongue, your cheeks and lips, the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat (places where there might be a problem that you can't see or feel);
  • look at your teeth and gums to see whether they are healthy or whether there are signs of decay, damage or gum disease (for children, your dentist will also look at tooth and jaw development in case orthodontic treatment might be needed now or later);
  • compare your mouth now with how it was when they last saw you;
  • decide whether they need more information from x-rays, or from plaster models showing how your teeth bite together;
  • tell you about any treatment you need, explaining the choices and whether there will be any cost.
  • The examination may take longer if you are seeing a new dentist for the first time.

What are the benefits?

Regular examinations mean that your dentist can spot problems and correct them early before the treatment becomes complicated.

A thorough examination helps you and your dentist look after your mouth and prevent future problems. The dentist will explain the options and then you can decide together what will be best for you.