Dr. Ho C. Ma, periodontist
In this modern day and age, who doesn't brush their teeth every day? Naturally, we all do. Thus begs the question - shouldn't all oral diseases have been wiped out or at least have been brought under control by now? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Why?
As a dental practitioner who has seen thousands of patients over the years, I have found that whilst most people brush their teeth every day, they do not pay proper attention to their brushing technique. Frequently they are in a rush to get the job done. As a result, plaque and bacteria develop inside oral cavities eventually turning into trouble. However, a proper technique only helps fight half the battle. The war over oral disease is won through behavior in addition to mastering technique. The behavior I refer to is the simple act of caring and loving one's self. For most of us, maintaining a healthy body is subconsciously one of the highest priorities driving our lives. By being smart and caring about our oral hygiene, positive and thorough oral hygiene habits will form, ultimately minimizing oral disease in our generation and generations that survive us.
For these reasons, I would like to share with you the way I brush my teeth in the hope that you may learn from my technique and reflect on your own oral hygiene routine. To start, I pay particular attention to the very moment I place the toothbrush inside my mouth, conscious of which tooth the brush is placed on and the brush's direction of movement. I keep track of every tooth that I brush, making sure that I cover every surface, i.e. the top, bottom, right and left side of each tooth, and brush at the correct angle. I try to be as meticulous as I can until I am satisfied that I have brushed every one of my teeth properly. I finish by sticking my tongue out and giving it a good rub before I put down my toothbrush.
Flossing is just as important as brushing our teeth. We use floss to clean the gaps between our teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing and brushing supplement each other and neither are dispensable in daily oral hygiene maintenance. When flossing, just as with brushing, I carefully place the floss at the base of the teeth, pulling it tight against the teeth, bringing it away from the base and towards the chewing surfaces of the teeth. I always keep track of exactly which side of each tooth that the floss is wrapped around, and how many times the floss moves up and down to scrape that particular surface of the tooth (or root).
I make a conscientious effort to clean my teeth properly every day. I do it with all my "heart", by which I mean brushing my teeth with "integrity" and "love". My "integrity" as a health care professional drives me to do everything right, while my "love" for my own well-being motivates me to properly care for myself. Without "integrity" and "love", I could not have persisted in cleaning my teeth as thoroughly as I have done to this day.
The underlying objective of my efforts is prevention – stop the oral disease before it occurs. Many oral diseases are preventable. The most common ones are cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. If these are not dealt with early, they can cause trouble and pain later on, and may eventually require major restorative treatments, including root canal therapy, installing prostheses, and worst of all, surgical interventions.
Cavities and periodontal disease are mainly caused by opportunistic bacteria residing in the mouth. They attack teeth and destroy tissue structures supporting the teeth. If we can prevent these bacteria by thoroughly brushing our teeth every day, we will succeed in taking the first step in preventing oral disease.
Medical reports often link periodontal disease with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes etc. There apparently exists a co-relationship with uncontrolled periodontal diseases and the aforementioned unpleasant health conditions. It is not my intention to discuss the medical details of such a relationship, but to emphasize our oral health can affect our physical health, and our physical health can, in turn, affect our oral health.
One can easily find information about how to brush and floss our teeth from a dental office, or from medical/dental websites. It has been frequently noted that more people brush rather than flossing their teeth. The main reason for this is that flossing is more demanding and takes time to become skilled in maneuvering the floss. Some people simply give up after making a few attempts.
Fortunately, there are new and affordable products called "floss pick" available on the market now. The design of the floss pick looks like a bow (Figure 1), or a slingshot (Figure 2).
Figure 1: Bow shaped Floss Picks
Figure 2: Slingshot-like Floss Picks
Both are easy to use. All that is required is to insert the floss into the little space (gap) between the teeth, then loosen up the accumulated food debris, plaque and bacteria. Generally, the bow-like version (Figure 1) works best for the front teeth, whereas the slingshot-like version (Figure 2) is more suitable for the back teeth.
Some people like to use toothpicks. However, toothpicks only remove food debris stuck between our teeth but do not actually clean teeth. The newly re-designed toothpick (Soft-Pick) is a game changer. As shown in Figure 3, the shaft of the toothpick has many small brushes (bristles) on the side, which not only help push the stuck food particles out, but also remove plaque and bacteria caught in between the teeth.
Figure 3: Soft-Picks
Nowadays there are countless oral care products available on the market. You can pick whatever that suits your personal needs. However, no matter which product you choose, use it with your "heart" and take full advantage of the benefits it has to offer.
Prevention is always better than a cure. We all know this, but putting it into practice has always been a challenge. I strongly encourage each and every person to closely examine their brushing and to brush with ALL your "heart" each and every day.
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