Tags Posts tagged with "toothbrush"

toothbrush

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Brush All Sides of Your Teeth
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Not long ago, I did a cleaning on one of my patients and found something very similar to what I find in most of my patients — that this particular patient takes a lot better care of the side of the teeth that he can see in the mirror than the back (tongue) side of the teeth.

Brushing TeethMaybe you do the same thing.  Many years ago, some researchers spied on 85 adolescents brushing their teeth.  They found that people spent the most time brushing the sides of the teeth that you can see, a moderate amount of time brushing the biting surfaces, and the least amount of time brushing the tongue-side of the teeth!  Interestingly, the kids also spent more time brushing the lower teeth than the upper teeth.

Another study videotaped tooth brushing behavior in people aged 5 to 22 and found that less than 10% of the time was spent brushing the tongue-side of the teeth.

Why Do We Not Brush the Tongue Sides of Our Teeth?

I think we spend less time brushing the tongue-side of our teeth for a couple of reasons:

1 – We tend to focus more on cleaning the sides of the teeth that we actually see.
2 – It’s easier to brush the front side of the teeth without the obstruction of a tongue.

It seems that the more difficult something is to do, the less likely people are to do it. I think this goes along with the two reasons most people don’t floss: It’s too hard and they can’t see in between their teeth.

Speaking of flossing, are you making one of these 10 common flossing mistakes?

Do You Really Need to Brush the Tongue Side of Your Teeth?

Brushing the tongue-side of the teeth is very important.  If you don’t brush this surface of your teeth, you let the bacteria in your mouth grow on your teeth.  This can eventually cause cavities or destroy the bone that holds your teeth in your mouth.

If you’re not brushing away the plaque daily, then it can harden.  Once the plaque has hardened into tartar or calculus (click to see a picture of tartar), it can only be removed by a dental professional.  More often than not, we have to spend a lot more time removing tartar from the tongue side of the teeth when patients come in for their dental cleanings.

Conclusion

If you’re not sure if you brush the tongue side of your teeth, you can ask your dentist how you’re doing.  It might also be helpful to get some plaque disclosing tablets (be careful, some plaque disclosing solutions don’t actually highlight plaque!) and a dental mirror at a pharmacy and check for yourself.

Another helpful hint is to time how long you spend brushing the front side of your teeth and then make sure you spend just as much time brushing the tongue-side of your teeth.

Do you have any questions about brushing your teeth or dental hygiene in general?  I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

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Age When Kids Can Brush Their Own Teeth
©Edyta Pawlowska/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever heard any of the following quotes regarding the age that kids should start brushing their teeth by themselves?

  • “My daughter could brush all by herself when she turned two years old!”
  • “Kids can brush alone when they can cut through a thick New York strip steak without any help.”
  • “They can brush alone when they are old enough to color in a coloring book and stay inside the lines.”
  • “They can be in charge of their own teeth when they are old enough to tie their shoes.”
  • “They’ll be able to brush by themselves when they can write in cursive.”
  • “They can brush their teeth alone when they’re old enough to hit a moving target 20 feet away with a paintball gun while standing on one leg.”

Age When Kids Can Brush Their Own Teeth

I might have made up that last one, but as you can see there’s a lot of confusion about the exact age at which a child can brush their own teeth and do a good enough job.

So when exactly are kids really old enough to brush their teeth all by themselves?  The answer really depends on a couple of other questions which we’ll go over first.

Are Younger Children Worse at Brushing Their Teeth?

Can Kids Brush Their Own Teeth When They Can Write?
Some Say That Kids Can Brush When They Can Write In Cursive

What if you could videotape people of different ages brushing their teeth and figure out at what age kids finally “get it” enough to remove the slimy layer of plaque from their teeth?

Two researchers decided to do just that.  They recorded a group of 5 year-olds, 11 year-olds, and 18-22 year-olds to see exactly how much plaque they removed when they brushed.  Here’s what they found:

  • 5 year-olds only brushed 25% of the surfaces of their teeth
  • 11 year-olds only brushed 50% of the surfaces of their teeth
  • 18-22 year-olds brushed 67% of the surfaces of their teeth

As you can see, as people get older, they appear to be able to clean their teeth better.  Interestingly, only developmental age has been shown to be associated with how well people brush their teeth.  The older they are developmentally, the better they brush.  The textbook Dentistry for the Adolescent and Child by McDonald & Avery states, “Although both chronologic and developmental ages were found to be predictors of plaque removal ability, only developmental age demonstrated statistically significant predictive power.”

As children get older, they develop better dexterity and hand-eye coordination.  If we strictly went by the information in the study above, we probably wouldn’t even trust 18 year olds to brush their teeth by themselves!  Maybe, brushing has more to do with learning the right brushing technique rather than getting older.

For example, what if someone tried to teach the 5 year-old to brush?  Wouldn’t they be able to brush by themselves if they knew what they needed to do?

Can Younger Children Be Taught to Brush Their Teeth Better?

Recently, a group of researchers tested some new technology geared at helping small children learn how to brush their teeth better.  They created a technology known as Ubicomp that uses computers to help children learn how to brush their teeth utilizing the Playful Toothbrush. Here’s what they found:

“After using the Playful Toothbrush for five consecutive days, kindergarten children exhibited significant improvement in effectiveness of teeth cleaning, increased number of brushing strokes, longer brushing time and more thorough brushing coverage in teeth areas.”

You can read a PDF file of the complete study to learn more about the technology used and how it improved the kindergarteners’ brushing skills.

So At What Age Can Kids Brush Their Own Teeth?

Ultimately, there isn’t one answer that will cover every child.  Each child is different.  Of the three pediatric dentistry textbooks I read while researching for this article, I found that two of them glossed over this question, which demonstrated to me that it is a difficult question to answer.  The textbook Dentistry for the Adolescent and Child by McDonald & Avery was the only one that alluded to an age when kids can brush their own teeth.  The authors state:

“Although children in the preschool age range begin to demonstrate significant improvements in their ability to manipulate the toothbrush, it is still the responsibility of the parent to be the primary provider of oral hygiene procedures.  All too often, parents of these children feel that the child has adequately achieved the skills necessary to clean the teeth.  It is important to stress to the parents that they must continue to brush their child’s teeth.”

They believe that children 3-6 years old still lack the fundamental skills necessary to brush their own teeth.  In the next section dealing with children ages 6 to 12, they state:

“The 6- to 12-year stage is marked by acceptance of increasing responsibilities by the children.  The need to assume responsibility for homework and household chores tends to occur during this time.  In addition, the child can begin to assume more responsibility for oral hygiene.  Parental involvement is still needed.  However, instead of performing the oral hygiene, parents can switch to active supervision.  By the second half of this stage, most children can provide their basic oral hygiene (brushing and flossing).  Parents may find they only need to brush or floss their child’s teeth in certain difficult-to-reach areas of the mouth or if there is a compliance problem.  Parents do need to actively inspect their child’s teeth for cleanliness on a regular basis.”

The magic age at which kids can brush their own teeth seems to be sometime between the ages of 6 and 9.

Conclusion

Since every child is different, you will need to individually figure out when your child is ready to begin brushing without any help.  A good way to do this is to use plaque disclosing tablets or solutions.  These plaque disclosing agents turn the plaque on your child’s teeth a different color so that it is easy to visualize and remove.  As long as your children are removing almost all o the color-stained plaque from their teeth, they are able to brush by themselves.

I currently have very young children who are eager to do things independently.  Rather than letting toothbrushing become a battle every night before bed, I have the following deal with my kids: They get to brush first and then I tell them I’m going to “check to see if they got everything clean” as I help them finish up.  My wife and I plan to continue doing this for a few more years.  Once they are a little bit older we will likely start using plaque disclosing tablets more regularly.  When we begin to notice that they are removing much of their plaque independently then we will transition to letting them brush by themselves.

Do you have any questions or comments about the age when a child can begin brushing their own teeth?  Please join in the discussion by leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to help your child brush all alone, at what age you got your child to brush, and if they ended up getting any cavities after they took over their oral hygiene routine.

Thanks for reading!

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Replace Toothbrush After Being Sick?
©StockLite/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever heard that you should replace your toothbrush after you are sick?  I had heard that you should, but I never understood why.  After you get sick, your body figures out how to fight the illness and then makes you healthy again.

Once your body knows how to fight off the illness, you usually won’t ever get that exact same illness again.  Because of this, I wondered why some people recommend changing your toothbrush after you get sick.

The Case For Replacing Your Toothbrush After You’ve Been Sick

Should You Change Your Toothbrush After You Get Sick?The book Primary Preventive Dentistry says, “In addition to regular [toothbrush] replacement, replacement after contagious illness is imperative.”

…and that’s all.

The authors don’t say why you should replace your toothbrush after you get sick, and they don’t even bother to cite any studies that support their recommendation.

Colgate mentions on their oral health care website that you should replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick:

It is also important to change toothbrushes after you’ve had a cold, the flu, a mouth infection or a sore throat. That’s because germs can hide in toothbrush bristles and lead to reinfection.

Again, they don’t give any references.  Let’s look more closely at the case against replacing your toothbrush after you’ve been sick to determine the strength of their argument.

The Case Against Replacing Your Toothbrush After You’ve Been Sick

Now don’t get too excited, but the American Dental Association has a whole page dedicated to their policy on toothbrush care — don’t worry, I read it so that you don’t have to!

The ADA never states on that page that you should replace your toothbrush after you get sick.  In fact, they even acknowledge that bacteria is almost always on your toothbrush and that your toothbrush can even be contaminated before you buy it because toothbrushes aren’t required to be sold in sterile packaging.

Ultimately, the ADA has this to say:

Although studies have shown that various microorganisms can grow on toothbrushes after use, and other studies have examined various methods to reduce the level of these bacteria, there is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects.

Basically, the ADA is at a loss when it comes to finding evidence linking bacteria on your toothbrush to any bad health effects.

About a year ago, I asked one of the dentists at my school what she thought about changing your toothbrush after you’re sick.  She told me that there is no scientific evidence that says that you should.  She also brought up the point that it would be hard to know exactly when to change your toothbrush since you can’t really tell when you’re very first infected and when your body has finally eliminated all of the bacteria/virus that caused the illness.

Conclusion

Although I don’t think it’s necessary to change your toothbrush after you get sick, I do believe that it’s a good idea to replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months because your brush can become a nice home for all of the bacteria that live in your mouth.  There may be exceptions if you have a compromised immune system or if you have other health issues that affect your ability to fight off infection.

What are your thoughts? Do you replace your toothbrush after you’re sick?  I’d love to hear about your views in the comments section below!

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Whitening Toothpaste Not Working
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Many people buy so-called “Teeth Whitening” toothpaste hoping to get whiter teeth.  For many people, these toothpastes do not provide whiter teeth.  Is this a form of false advertising?  Actually, it’s not.

ToothpasteThe confusion lies in the definition of teeth whiteningTeeth whitening in its strictest sense means to whiten the teeth to their natural shade.  Teeth bleaching, on the other hand means to whiten your teeth beyond their natural shade.

The reason there is so much confusion is because the phrase teeth bleaching isn’t very attractive.  So, companies that offer teeth bleaching, have started to refer to it as teeth whitening to make it more attractive to the average consumer.

In order for a toothpaste, mouthwash, or gum to be certified by the ADA as tooth whitening, it simply has to be able to remove surface stains off of your teeth.

How Teeth Get Stained

When our permanent teeth come in, they are a shiny white color.  However, as we grow older (and eat lots of teeth-staining foods), our teeth get more and more yellowish-brown.  Teeth Whitening toothpaste can remove tobacco stains, coffee stains, and other stains that we get as we go through our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, tooth whitening toothpastes can only return our teeth back to their original color. The toothpaste contains very gentle abrasives that rub against the stain and gradually remove it.

Why Teeth Whitening Toothpaste May Not Whiten Your Teeth

If you don’t drink coffee much or chew tobacco, there’s a good chance that your teeth aren’t stained at all.  In this case, if you use tooth whitening toothpaste, you probably won’t notice a difference in how white your teeth are.

Also, in the last ten years, it seems that all toothpastes are “teeth whitening”.  Chance are, you’ve already been brushing with “tooth whitening” toothpaste.  Continuing to brush with “tooth whitening” toothpaste isn’t going to make your teeth any whiter since you’ve already removed the stains with previous tubes of “teeth whitening” toothpaste.

How to Whiten Your Teeth

If you truly want whiter teeth, you will probably want to use a form of teeth bleaching.  Teeth bleaching is designed to whiten your teeth beyond their natural shade.

You should talk to your dentist about teeth whitening options such as in-office gels, Zoom teeth whitening, and take-home teeth whitening gels.

Have you been trying to get your teeth white with toothpaste?  Let us know in the comments.

Jessica Simpson Doesn't Brush Teeth
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Last Wednesday during an interview with iHeartRadio, Jessica Simpson proclaimed to the world that she doesn’t brush her teeth.  You can see a video of that part of the interview at the bottom of this article.

Jessica Simpson's Teeth by jvh33 on Flickr!Here’s how it came out of the pop-turned-country singer:

I don’t brush my teeth! No really! I just use Listerine and sometimes I’ll use my sweater.  No— I do brush every now and again, but my teeth are extremely powerful.  I mean, find me when I’m 60 and they’ll probably be all out.  But, I still like put on my face creams — they’re next to my bed.

After that, she exclaimed that she loves fried food.

I can only hope that there is fluoride in her face creams.  But in all seriousness, how can Jessica Simpson have such great teeth if she doesn’t even brush them?

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Toothbrush Sanitizers Toothbrush Germs
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When I was a kid, one of my teachers once told our class that bacteria from human waste in the bathroom could find its way on to our toothbrush.  Later that day, I went home and moved my toothbrush as far away from the toilet as I could.

Toothbrush SanitizerIt has also recently been shown that bacteria can grow on our toothbrush when it’s just sitting in the bathroom and not being used.

It is reasons like these that many people are looking into purchasing toothbrush sanitizers.

I’ve often wondered if they are really worth it.  Sure, there is bacteria on my toothbrush.  Has it ever made me sick?  Probably not.  That is why I personally don’t use a toothbrush sanitizer.  I figure if it’s not broken, there’s no point in fixing it.  However, I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes do things the wrong way.

In looking at the effectiveness of toothbrush sanitizers, we need to ask ourselves two questions:

  1. Do toothbrush sanitizers kill bacteria?
  2. If they do kill bacteria, does it really make a difference?