Brushing and Flossing in North York, ON
Brushing and flossing remove dental plaque from the teeth. Dental plaque is a soft sticky mass of live bacteria. These bacteria can cause cavities, inflamed gums (known as gingivitis), and gum disease (also known as periodontal disease).
Toothbrush bristles, even those on electric toothbrushes cannot reach in between the teeth to remove plaque bacteria. Therefore, it is important to use some other technique in order to remove the bacteria there. Flossing is the most economical and easiest way to remove plaque in between the teeth. There is also a variety of interdental devices, like the proxabrush, or a water flosser, that can be used effectively by some people. Dr. Shiewitz or your hygienist will inform you which option is best.
Cavity and Gum Disease Prevention
Plaque bacteria that are not removed from the teeth thoroughly twice daily can cause dental caries, also known as cavities. The bacteria consume carbohydrate that you place in your mouth and quickly release acid that starts to dissolve the tooth structure. Eventually a hole develops, the bacteria congregate in the hole and grow, releasing more acid. This vicious cycle results in a cavity. Brushing twice daily and flossing at least once daily removes the bacterial plaque frequently enough so that the effect of released acid on the tooth structure is minimal.
If dental plaque is not removed twice daily, it can harden from the minerals in the saliva. This mineralized plaque is called calculus or tartar. Once it develops on the tooth structure, it cannot be removed at home by brushing and flossing; it needs to be removed at our North York dental office by a specific cleaning technique called scaling. Scaling can be done by hand instrumentation or combined with ultrasonic tools.
Even though calculus is a calcified mass of bacteria, the bacteria are still alive and release toxins that cause gum inflammation (gingivitis) and periodontal disease during which the bone holding the teeth in place starts to shrink away. Uncontrolled periodontal disease leads to tooth loss.
So, your job at home is to clean thoroughly enough twice daily in order to remove dental plaque and prevent it from mineralizing into calculus. In this way, dental caries (cavities) and periodontal disease (gum disease) can be avoided.
When To Brush and Floss
We recommend that patients brush their teeth slowly and thoroughly twice daily BEFORE breakfast and BEFORE bedtime. Brushing should be done for two to three full minutes. It’s a long time! Time it!
Years ago, we used to say, “brush after every meal.” This is WRONG.
During the night, our saliva flow decreases. Saliva protects against cavities by reducing the amount of plaque bacteria in the mouth. So at night, without the normal amount of saliva, the plaque bacteria thrive and increase in number. It is important to remove this plaque before putting food in the mouth, especially any carbohydrate. Studies have shown that within seconds of putting a carbohydrate in the mouth, the plaque bacteria consume this carbohydrate and immediately begin to release acid. The presence of this acid is the first step in the development of dental caries, known as cavities. Therefore, we always recommend removing the bacteria that is on your teeth before you have breakfast to avoid “feeding” the bacteria.
Similarly, before bedtime, we want to reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth with proper oral hygiene techniques, the most basic of which is brushing.
We recommend flossing once daily, preferably at night, or in the morning before breakfast. For some people with aggressive bacteria or medical problems, we may recommend flossing twice daily.
Rechargeable electric toothbrushes are much more efficient and effective at removing plaque bacteria from the teeth than traditional toothbrushes. It is impossible to create the same number of strokes with a manual traditional toothbrush as it is with an electric toothbrush.
We recommend known and proven brands of rechargeable electric toothbrushes, such as one of the many Oral B® electric toothbrushes or Phillips Sonicare® toothbrushes. Both of these have built in timers that give you a signal when you can stop brushing. Some models have quadrant timers – divide your mouth into quarters, and a timer will indicate when you have finished one quarter. Some models have pressure sensors, that let you know when you are brushing too hard. For example, the oral B electric toothbrush has a red light that goes on if the pressure is too high. This is very helpful for heavy-handed people, to ensure they don’t damage their gums or teeth. Sensitive brush heads are available for people with thin gums or for those prone to receding gums.
Newer models have a downloadable app that tracks your brushing frequency and time as well as your flossing frequency. It can even let you know when you have sufficiently cleaned each quadrant in your mouth with a graphic. The corresponding graphic will change colour from blue to light blue to white as you brush.
Dr. Shiewitz takes oral hygiene instruction very seriously. If we notice a problem with plaque or calculus buildup, we may ask that you bring in all your oral hygiene tools so that we can review the best ways to use each for effective home care.