Some children are taught to brush their teeth in circles, and others are shown to brush up and down. But is there any difference, and if so, what? Does one way remove more plaque than the other way? Does one whiten more than the other? As it is a necessary part of being a human being, it would be interesting to have a look at the history of humans brushing their teeth, and the changes that have taken place over time. Nowadays, the dental market is worth billions worldwide, and all kinds of aids are available to aid tooth brushing, but how does one do it ‘properly’?
History of Brushing Teeth
As one may have expected, the attempts made by humans to clean their teeth reaches far back in history. Ancient Egyptians as long ago as 3000BC left records to show that they fashioned crude toothbrushes out of twigs and leaves. In the same way, Greeks, Roman, and also Indians attempted to brush their teeth in this manner. In some cases, people would fray the end of the twig before brushing, as this would allow a greater penetration between the teeth, and also create a rougher, more effective surface with which to brush with. In Europe, modern brushing as part of a routine began in the late 1700s, with the first mass produced, commercially available toothbrush going on sale in 1780. These were basic brushes, but allowed the consumer to effectively clean their teeth.
In The United States of America, commercially available brushes were for sale in the late 19th century, but curiously enough, the habit of brushing only gained popularity there after the Second World War, then returning U.S. soldiers continued the habit at home that they were required to do in military service. It soon caught on to the general population.
Ways NOT to Brush Your Teeth
It would be pertinent to look at, in the first instance, what to actually avoid doing when brushing. Looking at the common errors and how to avoid them will give a solid foundation upon which to base a brushing routine. The main mistakes made are:
- Not using the correct sized of toothbrush
- Not selecting the correct type of bristles
- Not brush for long enough, or often enough
- Brushing too hard, or too often
- Not following up with a rinse
- Not changing the toothbrush often enough
- Skip brushing inner tooth surfaces
Avoiding these errors will contribute to a more efficient brushing routine. As sensitivity seems to be a major affliction for vast members of the population, this may suggest that pressing too hard is the most common issue. One other issue associated with brushing too often is that it prevents your toothbrush from being able to fully dry out. Constant moistness in a toothbrush, as for anywhere, attracts the presence of bacteria. Although the official advice is to change your toothbrush every three months, it is probably better to carry out a bristle inspection yourself, and if frayed or worn, replace it sooner. Keeping the equipment you use to carry out the task is of the utmost importance. It is also important not to skip cleaning the inside of your teeth, the area your tongue touches against. It is easy to forget or miss these areas out, but brushing away the plaque you can’t see is just as important as removing the plaque you can see. From here, we can look at the method of brushing, to see if there is any difference.
Up and Down V Circles
How you actually perform the brush strokes is an import aspect of cleaning your teeth. Whilst some claim circles, and others up and down, the best method seems to be what is called the Modified Bass Technique, a composite of methods that, if done correctly, can provide a superior clean. Aiming the bristles at a forty five degree angle to the gum-line, the brush is used to flick at the area between the base of the gum and the top of the teeth, where bacteria can get trapped and build up. Once this is repeated along the whole set of both sides, one can apply the second stage of the technique. Using very small circular motions, move the toothbrush all over every part of the tooth, and remember to brush the tongue in the same manner, small circles. This method of flicking and circling should take between two and three minutes, if done correctly. Other dentists claim that the most important thing is not the way you brush, but actually brushing in the first place, and making sure it is done often enough. Whichever way you brush, you will be able to remove bacteria effectively. Others argue that the wrong kind of brushing will wear down the enamel of the tooth, which has the same effect as pressing too hard.
Although not many advocate the side to side method of brushing, many online dental forums contain admissions in posts from consumers saying they use a side to side motion, but the majority of people seem to use circular motions so it would seem that whichever method you choose comes down to a matter of personal preference. Understanding that a good routine involves a bit more thought and preparation – especially in the selection of the toothbrush- and allowing the correct amount of time will contribute at a base level to a routine which can be built upon, incorporating good habits until you are using the correct brush, bristles, technique and time to thoroughly clean your teeth.