Why should teeth be cleaned?
A sticky layer of bacteria called plaque continually collects on tooth surfaces and if not brushed away thoroughly each day it can cause gum problems, tooth decay and bad breath.
• Healthy gums are pale in colour, firm and fit tightly around the edges of the teeth.
• Unhealthy gums are darker in colour, swollen and often bleed when teeth are brushed.
Choosing a toothbrush
Choose a toothbrush with a mixture of long and short bristles – this will allow you to reach more areas. The brush should have a long handle and a head of about 2cm long. Powered brushes are also effective - choose one which oscillates or rotates. Change your toothbrush or powered brush head at least every 3 months.
Most toothpastes contain fluoride, which are very effective in preventing tooth decay. They strengthen tooth enamel and reduce the length of time of the acid attack that follows eating or drinking anything containing sugar. Look on the packet or tube for the amount of fluoride the toothpaste contains. This is written as 'ppm' which stands for 'parts per million' of fluoride.Choose a toothpaste with a minimum of 1000 ppm for 0-3 year olds and between 1350-1500ppm for all other ages. Children under 3 years of age should use a smear of toothpaste – all others ages should use a pea-sized blob.After brushing spit out but don’t rinse out – this allows the fluoride in the toothpaste to stay on the teeth for longer.
Toothpastes containing triclosan plus copolymer or zinc citrate are more effective at plaque control and can help to control gum disease.
Using your toothbrush
Teeth should be brushed twice a day, at night and at one other time, for at least 2 minutes. In order to brush the teeth thoroughly and remove all the plaque the toothbrush should be lined up with the gum margin (where the tooth grows out of the gum). Gently move the brush around on the teeth, especially at the gum margin where the teeth grow out of the gum.
Concentrate on cleaning just one or two teeth at a time. Remember to clean the outsides, insides and chewing surfaces of all the teeth.
If you are using a powered toothbrush gently move the brush head around each tooth especially at the gum margin, cleaning one tooth at a time.
Don’t scrub – let the toothbrush do the work for you.
If your gums bleed when you brush – carry on. If you stop brushing you will leave the plaque behind that is causing the gums to be bleed and be unhealthy.
If your gums still bleed when you brush after 2-3 weeks of thorough daily brushing you need to see a dentist for further advice.
Three-sided toothbrushes allow you to brush three tooth surfaces at once – the inside, outside and chewing surfaces. Your dentist or hygienist can give you more information.
Cleaning between your teeth
You may need to use other products such as dental floss or special brushes to clean between your teeth where your normal toothbrush won’t reach. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to show you how to do this.
An interspace toothbrush is designed to clean hard-to-reach areas, large spaces between the teeth and around the gum margin. Interdental brushes come in a variety of sizes and are used to clean between the teeth. Choose the right size for the space to be cleaned – a dentist or hygienist can advise on this. The bristles should go into the space and touch the sides of the teeth but the brush should not be forced through. If the fit is too tight try a smaller size.
Dental floss and dental tape can be used to clean between the teeth. A dentist or hygienist can advise you on the technique to use.
A mouthwash containing fluoride can help to prevent tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend an antibacterial mouthwash to help control plaque and reduce gum disease. Mouthwashes are often used to freshen breath. Bad breath can be a sign of unhealthy teeth and gums or of poor general health.If you constantly have bad breath don’t keep covering it up by using a mouthwash - visit your dentist to discover the cause of the bad breath.
Keeping dentures clean
It is just as important to clean dentures as it is natural teeth. Plaque builds up on the surface of the denture and food can become caught around the edges, in clasps and between teeth. Remove your dentures from your mouth. Put enough water in the sink to cover the dentures. This will help to prevent breakages if dropped. Clean the dentures (biting and fitting surfaces) with a toothbrush and soap or denture cream. Rinse well and store the dentures in water when not in the mouth.
Teeth play a vital role in your child's eating, speech, appearance and confidence, and the earlier good dental habits are formed the easier they are to maintain.
Avoiding sugary and acidic snacks and drinks between meals, brushing teeth daily and regular visits to a dentist from a young age will stand your child in good stead for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Children and brushing teeth
Teeth should be brushed twice a day at night and one other time.
Use a small-headed toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride for 0-3 year olds and 1350-1500ppm for all other ages. The amount will be on the toothpaste label.
Use a smear of toothpaste for under 0-3 year olds and apea-sized blob for all other ages.
Children need help with brushing until they are about 7 years old – standing behind them to do this often makes it easier.
After brushing they should spit out but not rinse – to allow the fluoride in the toothpaste to stay on the teeth for longer.
Extra fluoride can be given in the form of drops, tablets or a mouthwash – your Dentist or Health Visitor can give you more advice about this.
Your child's visit to the dentist
Children should be having regular dental check-ups by the time they are 3 years old.
Further information can be obtained from visiting the www.nhs.uk website.