For years I have had a patient in our practice who admits to only brushing his teeth twice a year, the two days he comes in to get his teeth cleaned in our office. Although this particular patient, who claims chewing tobacco keeps him cavity free, has a mouth that remains relatively healthy, most people who fail to properly care for their teeth do not fare so well. Failure to brush twice a day, floss at least once a day, and maintain a healthy diet, typically has devastating effects on the teeth and surrounding tissues. According to the American Dental Association, in the U.S. diseases of the teeth and mouth cause children to miss over 50 million hours of school each year, and adults to miss 25 million hours of work each year. Clearly, oral health is a serious national health issue.
We have all heard the news regarding recent studies which point to a strong correlation between oral infections with detrimental systemic effects and exacerbation of ailments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is important to brush for two minutes, a duration most people fail to reach. Two minutes is usually adequate to remove the bacteria, which is left behind, can cause tooth decay or periodontal diseases. Everyday a mixture of food, bacteria and other debris called plaque builds up on our teeth. Proper brushing and flossing keeps the teeth free from plaque, and preserves the teeth and gums. Perhaps more importantly, recent research has found that heavy plaque in the mouth can contribute to plaque buildup.
In rare instances, over-brushing the teeth can cause damage to the enamel surface of the teeth. When we brush we should use very light pressure, angle the bristles at a 45 degree angle to the gums, brush in small circles-never scrub hard back and forth. Also, only soft bristled toothbrushes should be used in the mouth. Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes have been shown to contribute to toothbrush abrasion which destroys enamel and creates groves in the teeth.
Just within the past year, I have noticed patients have began asking about a news report that suggests flossing is useless. In my opinion, this notion, which began with a New York Times article in August of 2016, is way overblown. The gist of the article is that because there is a lack of comprehensive studies validating the efficacy of daily flossing, then flossing must not be needed. I can tell you from personal observation in my ten years of practicing dentistry, that flossing is very beneficial in preventing gingival inflammation and interproximal decay. Encouraging people not to floss is very irresponsible on the part of the media, and will only deteriorate oral health.