The Specialist

Many common mistakes adults make with tooth brushing

Brushing your teeth effectively is not automatic. Brushing and flossing is like learning to ride a bicycle or learning how to drive. You must be taught. Because of poor brushing and flossing techniques and poor habits, many persons suffer unnecessarily from gum disease and dental cavities. As a result, gum disease and cavities are epidemic in our communities.

In this issue, we will discuss some of the most common mistakes adults make with teeth brushing and floss usage.

1. Using the same brush for too long

Your toothbrush is not meant to last forever. Most toothbrush bristles are made of nylon, a synthetic fiber that won’t break down in water or in the ingredients commonly used in toothpaste. Other toothbrush manufacturers have begun to place rubber bristles on the outside of the nylon bristles to help remove plaque and aid in stimulating the gum tissue.

You should keep your toothbrush for no more than 200 uses. That should be about three months, assuming you brush at least twice per day. One way to tell is to examine the brush and if the bristles are curving outward rather than straight, then it’s time to change the brush.

2. Not brushing long enough

Most persons are busy and tend to not place a value on how long they brush. Research shows that a two-minute brushing period is adequate for proper cleaning. Of course, brushing is just the start of a good oral care regimen. One must use the proper technique when brushing in order for the bristles to disrupt the colonies of bacterial plaque. The foam from the toothpaste does not remove plaque. The bristles must come in contact with all surfaces of the teeth and around the gum in order to do a thorough cleaning. Use a two-minute timer if you have to.

3. Rinsing with water immediately after brushing

Surprising as it may be, this is a mistake, unless you use a fluoride-based mouth rinse. Most persons rinse with water to get the toothpaste out of the mouth after brushing. When this happens, the fluoride from the toothpaste for the teeth is rinsed away, rendering the fluoride ineffective. For fluoride to work, it needs to sit on your teeth for at least 20 minutes after brushing. So, when one brushes, the idea is spit out the excess tooth paste as best as possible without rinsing. If you have to rinse, then do so with a fluoride-based mouth rinse.

4. Going to bed (sleep) without brushing

This is a definite no-no! I have found that during the COVID crisis over the last two years, the cavity rate appeared to have exploded. Firstly, many persons were sedentary, sitting around with limited movement. This caused many persons to binge eat and drink on junk food and drinks. Comfort foods full of starches and sweets became the go-to snacks. Well, during the evening hours, this becomes more common and therefore more problematic. Many persons would eat or drink, then go straight to bed without brushing. This is when the teeth are more exposed to acidic and bacterial damage. During sleep, your saliva rate is reduced and the mouth, teeth and gums are dried out because the mouth is often open during sleep. This causes bacteria to overgrow. This is why when you wake up, your mouth taste sour. Millions of bacteria are present and it is not until you produce saliva and brush your teeth that the taste will improve.

5. Not flossing

Only 25 percent of adult Bahamians floss daily. Many don’t floss even once per week. The most common reason is they have never learned how to do it properly and most believe it is too technically demanding and therefore time-consuming. The solution to this is a simple one. Allow your dentist or hygienist to assist you in learning the proper approach and technique. You may also floss with an interdental cleaner. By flossing regularly, we remove more of the bacteria and scraps of food in between your teeth, which is where the hidden cavities are. Flossing also prevents odors and bad breath.

We have discussed five things one should not do with respect to brushing and flossing. Practicing good oral hygiene demands applying proper techniques and consistent application. Visit your friendly dentist and hygienist, who can help along the path to good dental health. Only then are you able to maintain good overall health.

• Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or

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