Skip to main content
an eclectic collection of interesting information about health, work, money and life style.

Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums

Removing plaque from your teeth and gums is what proper dental care is all about. There are daily tasks, occasional tasks and regular check ups with the dentist, as a preventive measure.

Daily, you can handle this task on your own by brushing right and flossing. Twice a year, however, you should let a professional take a look inside your mouth.

Tooth Brushing

When it comes to brushing your teeth, you're probably going through the motions, but not actually brushing efficiently. In fact, you could be damaging your gums and/or leaving plaque behind. And if you're not flossing to remove the plaque you missed while brushing, your teeth may slowly be decaying.

There are several ways you can brush your teeth and the one you choose should be based on your mouth and your age. The best place to turn when deciding on a tooth brushing method is your dentist. In addition to advising you on the right method for your mouth, he or she can demonstrate proper brushing technique and answer any questions you may have.

Most people load up a toothbrush with toothpaste, stick the toothbrush inside the mouth, and aggressively brush the front teeth with a quick back and forth motion. They'll do a bit of brushing on those hard to reach back teeth, spit, rinse and consider the job done, all in about 30 seconds. Is this what you do?

If so then realize that there are two problems with this method. First, harsh brushing back and forth along the gum line will damage this sensitive area. Such brushing can cause gums to begin receding and/or wear down over time. It might also cause root surfaces to become exposed. Second, this isn't long enough! A thorough tooth brushing session should last 2 – 3 minutes!

There is a better way to brush teeth and gums. Brush using a circular or elliptical motion and brush just a few teeth at a time, on the outside and the inside surfaces. This technique will protect against gum damage and will ensure that all teeth get brushed. It's also important to brush the surfaces of the teeth, especially your molars to remove trapped food particles. And don't forget to brush your tongue! Bacteria live there too and when not brushed from the tongue, bacteria cause bad breath.

Use a toothbrush with soft bristles made from nylon. It'll be gentler on teeth and gums. The head of the brush should be about an inch long and the bristles should have rounded edges. And don't use the same toothbrush for longer than 3 months. By that time, the bristles will begin to flare, making tooth brushing less efficient.

Brush morning and night and if possible, after eating lunch. But don't brush more than this! Also, develop a tooth brushing routine. By repeating the same motions in the same order each time you brush, you'll have a better chance of removing all plaque.

The brand or type of toothpaste doesn't matter. What's important is that it contains fluoride and that the package bears the seal of approval of the American Dental Association (ADA).

Caring for, Cleaning and Replacing Your Toothbrush

How long has it been since you started using that toothbrush you used this morning? Is it fairly new? Is it a month old? Two? Three? Is it older than that? If you're still using the same toothbrush you were using three months ago or worse, even longer, then get yourself to the store and purchase a new one as soon as possible!

You need to regularly replace your toothbrush because over time, the bristles are going to start breaking down. You'll know when this is happening because they'll start looking frayed and they'll flare outwards. Once this breakdown starts to happen, it's not going to be possible for your toothbrush to work as effectively or efficiently as one with bristles that are standing straight up.

If your toothbrush is relatively new but you've just gotten over a cold or the flu, or if you've had a cold sore, an infection in your mouth, or a sore throat, it's a good idea to throw out the toothbrush you used during that sickness or infection. Bacteria can live among a toothbrush's bristles and using that toothbrush may cause reinfection.

Bacteria can also grow on toothbrush bristles when you haven't been sick, especially if bristles aren't thoroughly rinsed after each use. Food particles can remain on bristles and that can lead to the development of bacteria, another reason why frequently changing your toothbrush is a good idea.

After you've finished brushing your teeth, it takes only a moment to ensure that your toothbrush is clean. Remember, its job is to remove food particles and plaque from your teeth, which it does, but sometimes those particles that have been removed will stick between the bristles of your toothbrush. While you are rinsing the excess toothpaste and foam from the toothbrush, be sure to rinse away any food particles too. When you're done rinsing, take a close look at the bristles. If needed, rinse again.

Some people think that sticking their toothbrush in the dishwasher or the microwave oven is an effective way to clean/sanitize it. The truth is, these environments are too harsh for most toothbrushes and will only cause them to become damaged.

After you've rinsed your toothbrush, it needs to air dry to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Always store your toothbrush upright in an open container. Don't lie it down inside a drawer and don't enclose your toothbrush inside a case or other type of airtight container. With no air circulation, the moisture will create an environment ripe for bacteria growth.

To prevent cross-contamination, you never want the head of your toothbrush to touch the head of another toothbrush either. It's also not a good idea to share your toothbrush with others. To date, there's not been any solid proof that toothbrush sanitizers or mouth rinses with antibacterial agents offer any better protection than good cleaning habits so read the product's claims carefully before making any purchases.

And always remember – when in doubt, throw it out!


Brushing your teeth properly is an effective way of removing plaque, that sticky white substance that grows in between and along the bottom of teeth and along the gum line. But rarely will tooth brushing alone remove all plaque, no matter how good a job you do.

To ensure you remove every bit of plaque from your teeth, you've got to remember to floss. While most people will make the effort to brush in the morning and at night, few take that extra step of flossing. Rather than flossing daily, they'll floss weekly or worse, they just don't floss at all.

Flossing takes a bit of time and a lot of coordination which probably is why so many choose to skip this step. But like any habit, if you're willing to practice and repeat the process, in a few weeks you'll be flossing daily like a pro.

As you chew your food, some of it gets trapped in the spaces between teeth. The closer the space, the more difficult those particles are to remove with the bristles of a toothbrush. And when it comes to the molars, it's difficult to position the toothbrush so that it adequately gets between them.

When you floss, you wrap what looks like a length of thread around one or more fingers on both hands, and then work the thread up into the crevices between teeth. You don't use normal sewing thread as that could damage the gums. Instead you use floss, which can either be uncoated or coated with a wax. To add a bit of excitement to the task, floss now comes in a variety of flavors and some brands even resist shredding!

As you move the floss back and forth, up and down the space between teeth, that action loosens the plaque from those hard-to-get-at spaces that toothbrush bristles can't reach.

Some people wrap floss around their fingers while others just hold it between their fingers. How it's held doesn't matter as long as you have a firm grip and a segment that you can work with. With a back and forth motion, gently work the floss in between two teeth. This protects gums. Then wrap floss around an inside edge of a tooth by making a 'c' shape with the floss. Moving gently from base of tooth to gum line, use the floss to scrape the plaque from the tooth. Repeat for all teeth and don't forget the molars. Flossing those teeth can be awkward at first, but it's absolutely necessary.

You need only floss once a day, so choose morning or evening and stick with that time. You may wish to floss more often, especially after eating popcorn or other foods that tend to stick between teeth. Floss isn't expensive so use as much as you need, as often as you need.

Never rush your flossing session and never floss aggressively. Both can cause gums to bleed or become damaged. You actually want to avoid coming into contact with the gums as much as possible.

Remember to care for your toothbrush and floss daily.