Have we been brushing our teeth all wrong?

Have we been brushing our teeth all wrong? [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]
Have we been brushing our teeth all wrong? [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]

Use a hard toothbrush, brush your teeth in a circular motion, mouthwash is a waste of time! There is plenty of confusion surrounding oral hygiene, so when it comes to looking after our pearly whites we sometimes don’t know whether all our flossing, rinsing and brushing is actually doing any good.

Earlier this week, and reported by Daily Mail, Freshbrush, a New Zealand toothbrush company released a survey to mark World Oral Health day which found that of the 1000 participants, more than half were brushing their teeth with the wrong bristles and using a brush that is too harsh on their teeth. Dentists recommend using a soft bristled toothbrush but 54 per cent of people were found to be using medium or hard bristled toothbrushes.

Commenting on the findings Dr Mervyn Druian co-founder of The London Centre for Cosmetic Dentistry said: “We always recommend soft bristles to our patients for both manual and electric toothbrushes, as it’s the most comfortable and safest choice. Depending on how vigorously you brush your teeth and the strength of your teeth, medium or hard bristled brushes could actually damage the gums, root surface, and protective tooth enamel.”

And though it’s also recommended that you brush your teeth and gums gently, as brushing too hard and vigorously can wear away tooth enamel and harm your gums, 64 per cent of people surveyed said they were brushing their teeth ‘somewhere between gentle and vigorously’ and 21 per cent said they were brushing too hard!

So have we been brushing our teeth wrong this whole time? Yahoo Style UK drafted in the dental experts to bust some typical tooth brushing myths and get the real truth about our toothypegs.

Which toothbrush to use?

Hard or soft? Electric or manual? Novelty or not? Choosing a type of toothbrush can be tricky. “Electric toothbrushes are the best,” explains Celebrity Dentist, Dr Richard Marques from Wimpole Street Dental “I recommend either an Oral-B or a Philips Sonicare. You can also use a manual toothbrush where medium hardness is best. Hard brushes should be avoided as they can wear away the tooth enamel and soft toothbrushes are good for sensitive teeth or gums.”

There is lots of confusion surrounding how we should brush our teeth [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]
There is lots of confusion surrounding how we should brush our teeth [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]

How hard should brush?

According to Dr Druian overbrushing is a common problem and being too vigorous can cause damage to the tooth enamel and gyms. “You should hold the toothbrush between two fingers and not a fist and if you notice that your toothbrush’s bristles are becoming splayed, you are brushing too hard,” he explains. Instead Dr Druian suggests using a gentle motion. “Thoroughness is what is required for plaque removal, not aggressive brushing. You’re not going to achieve any extra benefit by brushing hard.”

Side to side or circular?

Both the dental experts we asked recommended holding the tips of the bristles at a 45 degree angle to the gumline and using small circular motions. “Move the toothbrush with short strokes in a small circular motion, several times in each spot – don’t saw back and forth across the teeth with your toothbrush,” says Dr Druian. He suggests paying particular attention to those hard to reach areas (do we sound like a toothpaste advert or what?), the gumline and areas around fillings, crowns or other restoration. Dr Marques says we should be brushing our gums as well as our teeth. “Even if the gum bleeds you should brush it as it will eventually heal and change from inflamed and bleeding to being healthy and pink,” he says.

How long you should brush for?

We’ve all been guilty of a quick once-round after a night on the Porn Star Martinis, but even when our bed is calling we should be aiming to brush our teeth for a minimum of two minutes. “You should brush for 2-3 minutes, twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. Any more and you can wear the teeth away, any less and the teeth and gums may suffer,” says Dr Marques.

Mouthwash? Must-do or monumental waste of time?

Never sure whether a quick gurgle with a mouthwash is actually worth the bother? But it’s worth making the effort according to Dr Marques. “A fluoride containing mouthwash is best,” he says. “Make sure it does not contain alcohol as alcohol can damage soft tissues in the long-term. Corsodyl (or chlorhexidine) is best for gum bleeding or gum problems (gingivitis or periodontitis) and you should always use after brushing.” And he has a tip for when mouthwash should be used in your oral routine. “The mouthwash should be the last thing in the mouth and is far better than tap water which washes the toothpaste and fluoride away (unless you live in an area where the water is fluoridated then the tap water is great!)”

But though certain mouthrinses, like Ultradex, add a layer of protection to your teeth, Dr Druian says its not necessarily a necessity. “However, using it once in the morning after you’ve brushed your teeth is a great oral hygiene tool,” he explains.

Should we be using a hard or soft bristled toothbrush? [Photo: George Becker via Pexels]
Should we be using a hard or soft bristled toothbrush? [Photo: George Becker via Pexels]

To floss or not to floss

This one’s non negotiable as both experts recommend it. “You can use interdental brushes or electric flossers (like the Waterpik or Airflosser instead), as long as you are doing some form of cleaning between the teeth at least once a day! It’s also vital to remember to visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning because you cannot remove the scale (tartar/calculus) yourself once it hardens!” warns Dr Marques.

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