It’s been a long time since the dancing toothbrushes and cavities of elementary school, but they did their job well. We don’t always remember to brush our teeth the recommended two to three times a day; no adult who grew up in the public school system will ever forget the importance of brushing your teeth. While you may have fought your parents over the nightly tooth brushing when you were young, as an adult, you want all the benefits that come from clean, healthy teeth. You want to look nice when you smile, avoid costly doctor bills, and painlessly enjoy your adult freedom to have ice cream treats whenever you want, but are you brushing correctly?
Remembering Childhood Lessons
How well do you remember the ‘how to brush your teeth’ instructions from those elementary school assemblies? Something about a 45-degree angle, don’t forget the tongue… The fact of the matter is that many adults have gotten into the habit of brushing their teeth and feel good about doing it but have long since forgotten the techniques that will definitely prevent cavities, keep your breath fresh, and enhance that healthy white. So, for all you adults out there who brush diligently, but maybe not thoroughly, here’s a quick reminder on all the most important points.
Water and Toothpaste
You may be surprised to discover how many people have stopped using toothpaste or only use a dab to get rid of that ‘inside your mouth’ taste. Toothpaste is like soap for your teeth. It helps to break down plaque, scrub your teeth, promote repair, and many kinds of toothpaste help whiten your teeth as well. Put a reasonable dollop of toothpaste on top of your brush and damp with water to help it spread over your teeth. If you have a problem with the toothpaste falling off, try pressing it into the bristles before brushing.
The 45 Degree Angle
The 45-degree angle you may remember is about brushing your gums. Make sure to angle the toothbrush toward the gums and brush at the seam to get little particles of food and plaque that may be hiding where the gums meet the teeth and in the gaps between. Many adults have at least some amount of trouble with gum health, and while they may bleed at first, brushing your gums correctly regularly will eventually help them, and the bleeding will fade.
Cover Your Bases
When you think about it, your teeth have a lot of surface area, and you need to do your best to brush all of it thoroughly. Most people get the front, the part of the teeth you show the world when you smile, but not everyone gets the less public angles. Start with the chewing surface, brushing back and forth both along the line of your teeth and perpendicular to it to ensure you get all the food particles out of your molars. Don’t be shy about brushing hard enough to get any accessible gaps between your teeth with the bristles. Next, get the back surface. This is the part your tongue rests against, and you can usually feel when it’s not clean and smooth anymore simply by running your tongue along the back of your teeth. Brush thoroughly, and be sure to get the gums. At every stage, go all the way to the back of your jaw where your wisdom teeth may or may not have come in.
The Finishing Touches
When wrapping up your dental hygiene ritual, don’t forget a few final steps that will make your brushing count more and last longer. Start by rinsing your toothbrush and then brushing your tongue. Food particles left on your tongue can get right back onto your teeth unless you take care of this now. Next, floss carefully into every gap between teeth, making sure to scrape both sides of each tooth and scoop into the divet in the gums in the middle. Finally, use mouthwash and hold it for the full 60 seconds plus gargling. If there’s anything left living in your mouth, this will kill it and wash away the remnants, plus it leaves your mouth feeling minty fresh.
If none of this was news to you, congratulations! You’ve been brushing your teeth correctly. However, for the hundreds if not thousands of adults out there who’ve developed a bit of a slapdash approach with the ol’ toothbrush, now is as good a time as any to start making every brushing count. After all, you want those pearly whites to last a long time so you can enjoy things like steak and ice cream well into your retirement.