Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
June 15, 2014 (updated January 17, 2020)
When I was a kid going to the dentist, my dentist always told me I had to brush harder. What did that mean? When my family moved to another city, my new dentist told me totally different things about brushing my teeth. Wasn’t there a right way, and wasn’t there a wrong way? Then, when I went to dental school, each faculty member had his special technique that contradicted his peers. How confusing!
The Purpose of Cleaning Your Teeth & How To Do It Right
Everybody knows that bacteria accumulate at the gum line, and unhealthy levels of bacteria can create chemicals that can cause tooth demineralization, tooth decay, and gum inflammation. There have been numerous commercial toothpastes and cleaning devices developed along with many cleaning techniques to help us remove this junk from around our teeth. Each claims superiority; what is an intelligent person to do?
Removing the amounts of unhealthy bacteria from around the tooth is the goal of flossing and brushing. The goal is not to kill all the bacteria in the mouth since much of the bacteria in the mouth are good bacteria. An effective method is to use (1) something to clean between the teeth and (2) a good toothbrush to clean the other surfaces of the teeth. Also, (3) don’t forget your tongue! Do these methods first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
1. Cleaning Between Your Teeth:
I floss between my teeth using dental floss. Think about sliding up and down a pole. That is how the floss wraps around the tooth and slides up and down to scrape away food particles that could get caught between the contacts of the teeth. Also, I always use a small brush that is designed to clean between teeth like a pipe cleaner (one brand is called TePe EasyPick®, another is GUM Soft Pick®). Imagine the small bristles of this tiny brush scrubbing the overgrown bacterial film away as it is pushed in and out between the teeth at the gum line. These small brushes are the best way to remove unhealthy plaque buildup at the base of the tooth and gum margin.
2. Brushing Your Teeth:
I like to use an electric toothbrush like the Sonicare® or the Oral B/Braun® because electric brushes are more efficient, and I am lazy. You do not need to use any toothpaste to brush your teeth effectively. Just brush with filtered water. However, if you want toothpaste, dip the bristles in a little coconut oil (I keep some which stays solid at room temperature in a small jar in my bathroom), and then dip these bristles into a little baking soda (I also keep some in a small jar in the bathroom). Then brush your teeth GENTLY, angling the bristles into the space where the gums meet the teeth on both the cheek side and the tongue side of all teeth. Brush horizontally but GENTLY.
I rarely use a mouthwash, because daily use of an antimicrobial mouthwash will kill bad bacteria as well as good bacteria. Killing good bacteria daily will compromise the health in your mouth and the rest of your body. If you want to use a mouthwash occasionally, use some coconut oil and swish it around for a minute or so. Then, spit it out (called Oil Pulling). If you use coconut oil as a mouthwash, be sure to spit it out into a napkin or paper towel and throw it in the trash. If you spit coconut oil into your sink, it could clog up the pipes!
3. Brushing Your Tongue:
Most of the odor-forming bacteria is located on the top and back areas of your tongue, closest to your throat. An effective way to remove this overgrown bacteria and food remnants causing odor is to use a teaspoon. Place the inverted teaspoon as far back as is comfortable on the upper side of your tongue. Then, gently glide the teaspoon forward, removing the bacterial film and microscopic food particles. Repeat this 2-3 times, and then wash off the teaspoon. Perform this tongue-cleaning method in the morning and then in the evening before bed.
- Don’t floss aggressively under the gum tissue. You easily could cut the gum and create a wound. That wound might stay sore and heal like a cleft. Aggressive flossing under the gum also could cause gum recession.
- A water-pick device can be dangerous. It could force food debris and bacteria deeper under the gum tissues if used on a moderate-to-high pressure setting. Also, the force of the water jet could tear gum tissue cells that are trying to heal inside the gum space.
- If you drink very acid drinks, the minerals of the tooth could become “softened” until the acid in the mouth returns to normal. I suggest that you don’t brush your teeth right after drinking any acid drink. Research suggests that you wait at least an hour before brushing after drinking an acid drink. It would be a good idea to rinse your mouth with water to help remove the excess acid while your mouth regains its normal acid level.
That’s it – great way to remove unhealthy plaque and other harmful microbes from your mouth.
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