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Brush with your head, not just with your hands

Many of us grew up in a household where we were taught to brush our teeth every day, two or three times a day, or after every meal. For the most part, we did just as we were told to do. Now, when we get up each morning, we know that before we go out into the world, we must brush our teeth.

Every day before we brush, we routinely put some toothpaste on the toothbrush, get the toothbrush wet, and give our teeth a scrubbing. We might rinse a little afterward, and then we’re done. If we have children, we pass along what we know about taking care of our teeth and the cycle continues. But, are we teaching them the right thing? Are we doing the right thing?

As with many other tasks in life, there exists a best practice for how we should do things and brushing our teeth is no different. There are a few things to remember:

• Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride helps teeth become more resistant to decay and helps to heal teeth that may have slightly damaged enamel.

• Brush in the correct direction, using a circular motion on the outside and inside of the teeth. That circular motion is essential to getting the bacteria that cause decay out from just under the gum line!

• Give the molars (back teeth) a vigorous brushing. Dentists have found that one of the first places cavities form are in the grooves on the chewing surfaces of our teeth. Many times the foods we eat remain in those grooves well after we finish eating them. If it is there, it is feeding the bacteria that cause decay.

It is imperative to make sure that each tooth gets some “brush time”. Brushing helps to break the cycle of decay. The naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths, combines with sugars from our food and becomes an acid. That acid is what begins to break down the enamel on our teeth, making them susceptible to decay.

In fact, we experience an acid attack in our mouths about 20 minutes after we eat or drink and that acid softens the enamel. So, hold off brushing for at least 30 minutes until after you eat, so you don’t cause any damage to the enamel on your teeth. It is also a best practice to drink water especially when eating or drinking foods that are high in acid.

Brushing our teeth is something we are supposed to do but we often don’t take the time to think about how we are doing it. Brushing incorrectly can actually do harm, so remember to brush with your head, not just your hands!

~Lorraine Leach, Oral Health Project Assistant

For more information on oral health or to get involved with our efforts, contact Lorraine at

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