Brushing teeth is the act of scrubbing teeth with a toothbrush equipped with toothpaste. Interdental cleaning can be useful with tooth brushing, and together these two activities are the primary means of cleaning teeth. Keeping your teeth clean goes a long way toward keeping them strong and healthy. So, how often should you clean your teeth? Well, that depends on the type of cleaning. Here are some good general guidelines to follow, but check with your dentist for his specific recommendations.
Brushing Teeth and Flossing at Home
It is important to start good oral hygiene at an early age. Learning good oral hygiene habits at an early age is important for later years and long term oral health. Parents must teach their children to brush and floss twice daily and they can actually physical teach their children how it is supposed to be done. You should clean your teeth at home with a soft-bristled brush two or three times each day. The brush that you use should comfortably fit the size and shape of your mouth, and should be replaced every few months. It is important to use short strokes back and forth to clean the outer surfaces, inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of all of your teeth.
When to start brushing
Good oral hygiene should begin at an early age. An infant's mouth can be cleaned after each feeding. Cradle the head with one hand and use your free hand to wipe the baby's mouth with gauze, wet cloth or xylitol wipes. A child's teeth should be brushed after the first tooth appears.
General brushing tips
- Infant's teeth to be brushed with a soft-bristled, age appropriate toothbrush with water. Fluoride toothpaste should only be considered after the child's first birthday and then only after consultation with the dentist or pediatrician;
- If fluoride is used for children who have a moderate or high risk for tooth decay, smear the toothbrush with toothpaste. A smear is smaller than a pea-sized amount, less than two years old;
- Parents should brush the toddler's teeth in the bathroom while the child is watching the parent.
- Children, age six to eight might be capable of brushing their own teeth but parents should be doing inspection to make sure critical areas are not missed;
- Children should be encouraged to brush at least twice a day, mornings and nights before they go to bed.
- Battery-powered toothbrushes can also be used to remove the plaque from their teeth;
- Replace your child's toothbrush every three to four months, depending on the condition of the bristles. It is a good idea to replace your child's toothbrush after flu or a cold to avoid re-introduction associated with germs within those conditions.
- Toddlers that are less than 2 years of age, should spit out the toothpaste after tooth brushing as best as they can. They are being taught the expectoration (spitting out) process and at this age the fluoride will enhance teeth to become stronger. Children, ages 2-5, can start rinsing with small amounts of water after brushing their teeth.
Flossing your teeth once a day will also remove any remaining food, plaque, and bacteria from in between your teeth.
When children should floss
Children should start flossing when tooth surfaces are next to each other. Flossing once a day is important. Bacteria and food settle between teeth and this can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. The tongue should also be brushed to remove bacterial plaque.
General tips for flossing
- Hold a short length of floss between the thumb and index finger. Twining it around on finger at each end to gain control. Do not apply too much pressure when inserting the floss between the child's teeth.
- The floss should make a C shape curve around the tooth sliding up and down gently along the tooth and under the gum line;
- A new piece of floss should be used for each tooth to avoid re-insertion of food, plaque and bacteria;
- An interdental brush can be used to clean in between tooth areas that have spaces.
Regular brushing, at least twice daily, and flossing at least once a day will be a good oral hygiene routine. Six month visits to the dentist and oral hygienist will assist with good oral hygiene and prevent damage to teeth and gum diseases. It is good to start early and to follow it through so the child will develop these oral hygiene habits and routines.
At the Dentist
In addition to forming good daily brushing habits, it is also important to have your teeth professionally cleaned. Professional cleanings are done at your dentist's office by a dental professional. This type of cleaning can help remove hard deposits on your teeth that daily brushing cannot remove. It also helps prevent gum disease. You should have your teeth professionally cleaned twice each year if your teeth are healthy, and more often if you have specific health concerns that effect your oral health.
Your dental professional can help you determine the best answer to the question, "How often should you clean your teeth?" Talk to them about how often you need professional cleanings based on your specific oral hygiene needs. Learn more about oral hygiene in the Colgate Oral Care Overview.