Along with a healthy diet and regular dental visits, a good brushing and flossing routine is one of the best ways to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth. This helps to lower your risk of oral health problems such as tooth decay, cavities and gum disease that can also affect overall health.
7–13 August 2023 is Dental Health Week in Australia, an annual campaign aimed at improving education about the importance of taking care of your teeth and gums and the dos and don'ts of good preventive oral care. The campaign's 4 key oral health messages are:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Clean between your teeth daily using floss or other interdental cleaners
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and limit your added sugar intake
- Visit the dentist regularly for check-ups and other preventive care
Even if you think you take enough care of your teeth, there could be room for improvement or bad habits that are putting your teeth, gums and health at risk. Check whether you have any of these bad oral hygiene habits and how to break them.
1. Brushing or flossing too hard
Vigorous tooth brushing and flossing doesn't remove more plaque – in fact, it can damage tooth enamel, irritate your gums, and make your teeth more sensitive and more prone to damage.
Applying less pressure and brushing in gentle circular motions will still remove food and bacteria from your teeth and help you to avoid fillings and root canal treatments.
If you find traditional floss uncomfortable, your dentist can recommend alternative interdental cleaners for sensitive teeth and gums.
2. Not brushing or flossing enough
For most people, toothbrushing is recommended twice a day to prevent plaque build-up – preferably in the morning and before going to bed. Your dentist may recommend brushing more frequently if you need to improve your oral health.
Toothbrushing should take around two minutes. This is how long it takes to gently brush the front, back and chewing surfaces of every tooth in turn. You won't be giving your teeth the thorough clean they need if you rush the process.
It's also important to floss between your teeth, as floss can reach the surfaces your toothbrush can't. Flossing should be done at least once daily and should take around two minutes, though it could take longer if you're not used to flossing or if you have braces.
3. Brushing straight after meals
If you're trying to improve your oral health, you might think that brushing your teeth after every meal could help. That depends on what you've been eating and drinking.
If you've had food or drink containing acids (such as citrus fruits or soft drinks), these can soften tooth enamel temporarily, which can make it vulnerable to damage from toothbrushing. Acids can also be left on teeth when bacteria consume sugar and other carbohydrates in food and drink.
This is why dentists recommend waiting for at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing your teeth. You can clean your mouth in the meantime and reduce acidity by drinking water or chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
4. Using the wrong toothbrush
Teeth can also be damaged if your toothbrush itself is too hard. Hard bristles can strip enamel from tooth surfaces and irritate the gums. Your dentist may recommend a toothbrush with soft or medium bristles, depending on your needs.
An electric toothbrush doesn't necessarily clean better than a manual toothbrush, but some people find a powered toothbrush easier or more comfortable to use, which results in better brushing. Children may also find an electric toothbrush with lights, sounds or other features more appealing.
5. Using the same toothbrush for too long
Manual toothbrushes are disposable and are not designed for long-term use. Over time, their bristles bend out of shape through regular use and can harbour germs.
It's recommended to replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or earlier if the bristles bend or you recover from a sickness. If you have an electric toothbrush, the brush head should be disposed of and replaced at the same interval. Used lengths of floss should never be reused.
6. Using the wrong toothpaste
Toothpaste should contain fluoride, which is important for helping to protect teeth against plaque. Toothpastes that contain charcoal or other abrasive ingredients may not adequately protect your oral health and may even damage tooth enamel.
Dentists generally recommend that young children should use a low-fluoride toothpaste or a small amount of full-fluoride toothpaste until around the age of 6 before switching to standard toothpaste. They should also be taught not to swallow toothpaste to avoid consuming excess fluoride.
7. Using the wrong type of floss
Some people find traditional floss uncomfortable or hard to use, including many children and people with restricted mobility. If this is the case, your dentist could recommend trying a floss alternative, such as:
- Floss holder – pre-threaded floss with an easy-to-use handle, floss holders should be disposed of after use.
- Interdental brush – small toothbrushes designed for cleaning between teeth, these can be especially useful if you have braces.
- Water flosser – a hand-held electric appliance that sprays a jet of water to clean between teeth.
8. Not cleaning your tongue
Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily can help to keep plaque at bay, but if you don't also brush your tongue, your mouth will still harbour harmful bacteria – not to mention making you more prone to bad breath.
You can clean your tongue before or after you brush your teeth, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste or a specialised tongue scraper. To clean your tongue:
- Place the toothbrush or tongue scraper as far back on your tongue as feels comfortable
- Gently brush or scrape your tongue from the back to the front
- Brush in back-and-forth motions or scrape in multiple directions
- Rinse your mouth with water afterwards to remove food and debris
9. Not cleaning your braces
If you have braces, this can make toothbrushing more time-consuming, but it's important to do a thorough job to prevent oral health problems that could interrupt your orthodontic treatment. This also involves cleaning the braces themselves.
To clean your teeth and braces:
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and spend around 10 seconds brushing each tooth in gentle circular motions.
- Next, spend around 10 seconds brushing each bracket on your teeth in the same way.
- Brush under the arch wires and between the braces.
- Finally, spend the same amount of time brushing the chewing surfaces and inner (back) surfaces of your teeth.
- Flossing is also important with braces. You should clean between your teeth at least once a day using floss or an interdental brush.
10. Trying to remove tartar yourself
Good brushing and flossing can remove most plaque from your teeth, but any that remains can harden into calculus or tartar. This should only be removed by a professional dentist or hygienist performing a routine clean and scale.
Trying to remove tartar yourself by scraping your teeth with sharp objects could risk damage to your teeth or injury to the soft tissues in your mouth, which may need an emergency dentist. Hygienists remove tartar gently using scalers, ultrasonic devices or other non-invasive techniques that won't cause pain.
11. Not using a mouthwash
Not everyone needs to use a mouthwash, but your dentist may recommend swishing with an antibacterial mouth rinse after brushing to reduce plaque and bacteria further. You should talk to your dentist before adding a mouthwash to your oral care routine, as some are more effective than others.
If your dentist thinks you need to improve your cleaning, they may recommend plaque disclosing tablets. These temporarily highlight plaque and tartar on your teeth to help you brush more thoroughly.
12. Not visiting the dentist for preventive care
However well you take care of your teeth and gums at home, it's important to see a dentist once or twice a year for a check-up and teeth cleaning. Regular visits help to prevent plaque and tartar build-up and improve the chance of any problems being detected and treated early.
Our hygienists at Robina Town Dental use the latest EMS Airflow® technology to clean and polish teeth painlessly and reduce sensitivity. We also apply a layer of fluoride to offer long-term protection for your teeth and can recommend and demonstrate the best oral hygiene products and techniques to help you and your family take the best possible care of your smiles.
Book a check-up with our Gold Coast dentists
If you're worried about your oral health or due for your check-up and professional clean, call our friendly team at Robina Town Dental on 07 5575 9100 today. You can also contact us online or find our Gold Coast dental clinic in Robina Town Centre.
We welcome patients from all nearby Gold Coast suburbs including Burleigh Heads, Burleigh Waters, Clear Island Waters, Mermaid Waters, Merrimac, Miami, Mudgeeraba, Varsity Lakes and Worongary.