The Best Way to Brush Your Teeth
As purveyors of all things good-grooming, we’re always looking for tips and tricks to help guys look and feel their best. Admittedly, a lot of the time that focuses on shaving and clothes, and somewtimes we forget the more quotidian tasks like brushing your teeth. I mean, really, when was the last time you even thought about it?
So imagine our surprise when we discoved a guy who was so passionate about this often overlooked activity. And imagine how surprised we were to discover that we’ve been brushing our teeth wrong the whole time. We were so blown away that we invited Dr.Scott Fey to tell us how to brush your teeth the right way.
Does the Order of Brushing and Flossing Really Matter?
You may not think the order in which you decide to brush, floss, and use mouthwash is important, but the order of your daily dental hygiene routine can have a large impact on the how much tooth-strengthening fluoride is available to the surface of your tooth enamel.
Fluoride is one of the most effective ways we have of strengthening teeth to counteract the daily wear and tear of the modern diet, which contains more damaging acids and sugar than ever. With fluoride forming an essentia line of defense, we want to maximize its availability to our teeth when we use it in toothpastes and mouth rinses, and following the correct tooth-cleaning sequence on a daily basis can make a big difference to dental health.
Step 1: Floss First
Floss cleans plaque out from the nooks and crannies in between your teeth, in the places your toothbrush can not reach. We want to have these interproximal (that’s dentist-talk for between teeth) surfaces cleansed and ready for maximum fluoride delivery in order to prevent cavities from forming between your teeth. Flossing at the beginning helps you remember to do it because you get it out of the way first.
If you use a tongue scraper or any other special tongue cleaner, use it at this time.
I want to be clear that I am using the term “flossing” generically and speaking about all interdental cleaners; if you hate traditional floss and use something like a Waterpik (which is awesome by the way—free plug) or another interdental cleaner, this is perfectly fine, and in many cases, preferable.
Step 2: Now Brush Your Teeth
Make sure you brush using fluoridated, low-abrasive toothpaste.
Toothpaste is an extremely effective delivery vehicle for fluoride so we want to make sure our toothpaste has fluoride in it. If you prefer things au naturel, I would recommend Tom’s of Maine Gentle Clean Toothpaste with fluoride. It is SLS-free and a pretty solid toothpaste overall.
The most important part of this step is that once you are done brushing spit out the toothpaste thoroughly but do not rinse with water afterwards. For extra points, you can even swish the foamy toothpaste around if you can before spitting it out. Toothpastes have a small degree of substantivity (stickiness) and we want to allow it to coat our teeth. This does not mean you are swallowing gobs of frothy toothpaste; you still spit it out completely.
Step 3: Lastly Rinse with Mouthwash
Using a low-fluoride, alcohol-free mouthwash to rinse for 30 seconds to 1 minute then spit.
Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash at this stage will do two things for your teeth. First, it will help maximize the delivery of fluoride by working in conjuction with the fluoride provided by your toothpaste. Additionally, it will dramatically increase the contact time your teeth have with fluorde after your hygiene routine (by some estimates, a 90% increase in fluoride retention). This is even more important at night when your teeth are repairing themselves from any harsh acids or sugars encountered during the day.
Please avoid “all-natural” mouthwashes: they are highly acidic and typically have no fluoride in them. I would also take care to avoid any fluoridated mouthwashes that contain citric acid as a preservative—citric acid has calcium-stripping properties which can negate the positive effects using a fluoridated mouthwash by attacking calcium-rich dental enamel.
Changing the order in which you clean your teeth is something really simple that you can do today to get more out of oral hygiene, and it can go a long way towards keeping your teeth strong and healthy.
Dr. Scott Frey is a Fellow of the World Congress of Minimally Invasive Dentistry and soon to be a practicing orthodontist in Allentown, PA (once he completes his residency in orthodontics in February 2013). He is the founder of MorethanSmiles.org, a nonprofit organization seeking to improve oral health by providing orthodontic scholarships and by spreading uncommon oral health solutions.
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