What is tooth decay?
Our mouths contain lots of different types of bacteria. Some are helpful but some can be harmful such as the types of bacteria that are involved in the process of tooth decay (caries).
A sticky layer of bacteria called plaque constantly forms on teeth. After eating or drinking foods that contain sugar, bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the hard outer surface (enamel) of a tooth. The decay can progress to involve the softer inner surface of a tooth (dentine) and form a cavity that requires treating.
There is no such thing as ‘weak’ teeth. However, some people are more predisposed to tooth decay due to the type of bacteria that live in their mouth.
Thorough daily cleaning is therefore essential to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
How to brush
Brushing helps to remove the layer of plaque which therefore reduces the risk of decay.
- Brush your teeth twice a day, preferable morning and night, for a least two minutes
- Use a soft, small-headed toothbrush
- Your toothbrush should be placed at a 45-degree angle to your gums
- Brush gently using small strokes
- Remember to brush all the surfaces of your teeth, including the inner tooth surfaces on the tongue and cheek side and also the chewing surfaces
- It is also a good idea to brush your tongue as bacteria on the tongue can contribute to bad breath
- Change your toothbrush every 3 months or sooner if the bristles are worn. This will ensure you are able to brush your teeth thoroughly and also helps to reduce harmful bacteria building up on the bristles.
How to floss
Brushing removes the majority of bacteria from teeth but it is unable to remove bacteria living in-between the teeth. Flossing helps to remove plaque from between the teeth and around the gum line.
- Wind the floss around both middle fingers and support it across your thumbs and index fingers
- Hold your thumbs and index fingers closely together to guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing action
- Curve the floss into a C shape around the tooth at the gum line to clean the neck of the tooth
- Gently pull the floss up and down
- Try to avoid using a see-saw action as this can damage the gum
- Let the floss go with one hand and pull through the gap with the other hand
- Use a clean segment of floss to repeat for the rest of the teeth
Some people find it difficult to floss. Dental tape is flatter than dental floss which is more suitable for people with teeth close together.
Your dentist or hygienist may recommend using small interproximal dental brushes instead of floss. If you are unsure, ask the dental team to demonstrate how to efficiently clean in-between your teeth.