I believe you need only spend about 1 minute each time you brush. That amounts to about 2 seconds for each of your 32 teeth. Not very long when you think about it. But very important.
Regular brushing is important to remove plaque, a sticky, harmful film of bacteria that grows on your teeth that causes cavities, gum disease, bad breath and potentially tooth loss, if not controlled. Additionally, most toothpaste contains fluoride, which makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay. Lastly, special ingredients in toothpaste help to clean and polish the teeth and remove stains over time.
Ok, so which brush?
Toothbrush design and materials have come a long way. We’ve found examples of toothbrushes nearly 5000 years old. Ancient civilizations used a “chew stick,” a thin twig with a frayed end. The sticks were rubbed against the teeth to remove food. In the past 500 or so years, toothbrushes were crafted with bone, wood or ivory handles that held the stiff bristles of hogs, boars or other animals. The nylon-bristled toothbrush as we know it today was invented in 1938. To learn more about all the intriguing details in the history of toothbrushes, see Library of Congress.
Today, we fortunately no longer have to contend with twigs. But we do have to select a brush from among the hundreds of different toothbrushes you’ll find -- electric, non-electric, sonic, angled, raised bristles, left-handed brushes, over-sized heads, even chewable ones. (A chewable toothbrush is a small piece of plastic that has bristles on one end. When water, toothbrush and toothpaste are not easily accessible, you can pop in a chewable toothbrush, chew it for a few minutes, then spit it out.)
So with all these choices how to choose? Just pick the one that feel most comfortable in your mouth and in your hand. There is no body of scientific evidence that shows any one type of toothbrush design is better at removing plaque than another. The only thing that matters is that you brush your teeth, and that you use a brush with soft bristles. (Plaque is soft; in fact you can wipe it away. So there’s no need to risk damaging the teeth and gums with a hard-bristled brush.)
Ok, so, you’ve brushed. Great! But are your teeth thoroughly clean? Take this simple test: chew a plaque-disclosing tablet after brushing. It releases a harmless dye that mixes with saliva over your teeth and gums. The dye will color plaque that was not removed when you cleaned your teeth. After you rinse your mouth with water, check your teeth to identify pink-stained areas (un-removed plaque). And maybe you need to brush again to fully complete the job.
After brushing, flossing is the next key step to help remove plaque, and pieces of food, from those areas between teeth and along the gum line where a toothbrush doesn’t completely reach. Now I know some people don’t really like flossing, or have dental conditions that make it difficult. So, I often recommend using an interdental brush or an oral irrigation device. Both can be a valuable alternative to floss. Next time you’re in, let’s talk about what works best for you.
Well, that about covers the daily oral hygiene discussion.
Now, when it may at times seem just too much to brush and floss twice a day every day, just keep in mind that you have only 32 teeth, not 3200, like a shark.
Brush on, folks!