Cleaning teeth is usually a hurried affair. Most people grab a brush, squeeze a blob of toothpaste on the bristles and scour away for a few minutes.
This is unfortunately not sufficient to avoid tooth decay and the painful remedial treatment that goes with it. More thorough methods are called for.
"Daily teeth care should involve the use of a brush and dental floss," says dentist Ilona Kronfeld, who works for the Philipp-Pfaff-Research Institute near Berlin.
Brushing teeth in a correct way is the first step to keep decay at bay.
DPA Brushes are still the instruments of choice when it comes to removing the food particles from the teeth which can lead to a build-up of the potentially-harmful biofilm known as plaque. If not regularly removed, plaque can lead to dental cavities.
Most people rely on a standard hand-held toothbrush but dental technician Stefan Zimmer of the University Clinic in Dusseldorf advises against this.
"The only advantage of these toothbrushes is that they are cheap to buy and do not make any noise", he says. According to Zimmer, an electric toothbrush is far superior.
Electric toothbrushes come in two sorts, both of which tend to cost about the same. There are ones which use rotating brush heads or ones with ultra-sonic vibration which is supposed to have a secondary cleaning effect.
The latter are designed to be held at a 45-degree angle against the gums and moved along, whereas the circular brushes are used to clean each tooth individually - and that calls for more practice.
Cleaning between the teeth is vital too and Zimmer laments that not enough people regularly use dental floss. Among those who do so, many use the wrong technique.
Simply running the floss back and forth between the teeth will not do. The aim is to hold the floss against a tooth and move it up and away from the gum in a gentle scraping motion.
Both waxed and unwaxed floss are suitable, Zimmer says. "Both make a good job of cleaning," according to the dental expert who seeks to allay fears that floss will pull out fillings. "That will only happen if the fillings have been badly done in the first place."
For people who find dental floss too much of a handful, there are so-called interdental brushes which come color-coded in various sizes. These are particularly suitable for older people since the gaps between the teeth generally increase with age and the brushes are easily to use than dental floss, dentist Kronfeld says.
There are tapered and cylindrical brushes for different applications but common to all is the method of use. The brushes should be simply pushed gently back and forth between the tooth and gumline.
Mouthwashes and gels can be useful too and the dentist might recommend an antibacterial mouthwash to help control plaque and reduce inflamed or diseased gums.
(China Daily February 5, 2008)