Many people hear from dental health proponents that you should brush your teeth at least twice per day for two minutes. This is great advice, but it is incomplete. When should those two essential brushings occur? We will explain in this week’s blog.
The purpose of brushing your teeth is to remove dental plaque. Because plaque continually collects on the teeth all day every day, consistent brushing is necessary to maintain good oral health.
The best toothbrush has soft bristles and a shape that is easy to grasp and manipulate. Many people prefer electric toothbrushes, which perform the movement of the bristles for them. Every tooth needs brushing. We even recommend that parents use a soft washcloth or infant toothbrush to remove plaque from a baby’s very first tooth!
Dental plaque is the soft, white to off-white buildup that collects on the teeth. It contains bacteria, food debris, and exfoliated cells from the tissue lining the inside of the mouth. Plaque accumulation never stops, which is why we can never stop brushing.
Typically, you can feel plaque buildup on your teeth as a fuzzy or textured layer covering the enamel. Enamel is glossy smooth and shiny. Plaque tends to collect in clumps, making it feel slightly bumpy. Heavy accumulation of plaque causes bad breath, too. So while you may not easily see it, you can feel it, and others can smell it!
Dental plaque is bad because it provides a home for the bad bacteria that cause both cavities and gum disease. Plaque is slightly sticky, so it enables these bacteria to stay in contact with the teeth and gums in order to penetrate and cause disease.
Plaque is simple to remove with good brushing and flossing techniques. But if you do not remove it consistently, it can change. Over time, plaque begins to harden, or mineralize, into a different type of buildup, known as tartar or calculus. You cannot remove tartar from the teeth on your own. That requires a dental visit in which a dental professional removes it using specialized instruments to break its bond with the tooth surface.
You may have heard that you should “brush the sugar away”, but technically, you should brush the plaque away.
There is no question that everyone should brush at night before bedtime. When we sleep, our salivary flow slows down (so we don’t choke or drool all night). This makes it easier for plaque to collect on the teeth. (This is also the cause of “morning breath”.). It is important to start every night with a clean slate in your mouth. Brush and floss thoroughly before bed every night for great dental health.
Dentists actually differ in their opinions on when you should brush in the morning, with some recommending a pre-breakfast brush, and others stressing the need to brush after breakfast as you start your day. Brushing before breakfast removes the plaque that collected overnight, leaving minimal bacteria on the teeth to “eat” the carbs from your breakfast. Brushing after breakfast removes both the dental plaque and the food debris you just collected, giving you a clean slate for the day ahead.
One important precaution to take is to not brush immediately after drinking acidic beverages. If your breakfast includes a nice big glass of orange juice, brush beforehand or wait at least 30 minutes afterward. There is a risk of acid erosion when you brush immediately after drinking a strong acid like fruit juices.
We hope that everyone has access to the necessary oral hygiene tools to brush at least twice a day. We often hear the question about brushing after lunch while at work. This may prove inconvenient or impossible for some. If you cannot brush to remove plaque and food debris, you can work to neutralize your mouth by drinking plain water and chewing sugar-free gum.
This helps to protect your teeth against cavities and acid erosion, buying you some time until you can brush again.
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a visit with our periodontist. These gum experts are the most knowledgeable about dental plaque and how to remove it most effectively. We can answer any of your brushing questions. Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!