Most People Brush Teeth Improperly: Facts and Consequences

Though research has shown that the majority of Americans do brush their teeth on a regular basis, or, in other words, twice per day, it has recently become clear that only one in ten of these individuals does so properly as is recommended by the American Dental Association.

When it comes to rising numbers in tooth decay and periodontal disease, the type of toothpaste used by most people does not appear to be the problem at all. On the contrary, it appears to be the type of toothbrush used, the frequency with which it is used, the length of time the patients spend brushing and the technique implemented while brushing that affect the outcome the most.

What’s Wrong with the Majority’s Technique?

One of the main problems seen in recent decades is that, when the overwhelming majority of individuals commit to brushing their teeth in the morning or at night, they do so in order to conform to societal expectations of what is considered to be normal or to maintain fresh breath rather than to prevent tooth decay. The prevention of tooth decay should be the top priority when it comes to brushing and flossing, as fresh breath will inevitably accompany a healthy set of teeth and gums.

The most common brushing mistakes that dentists recognize in their patients include the following:

  • Using too much water during and after brushing, which dilutes the fluoride in the toothpaste
  • Brushing too roughly or too softly, which can damage teeth, gums or fail to remove all debris and plaque
  • Brushing side to side rather than up and down
  • Failing to brush for long enough or often enough
  • Neglecting to brush all the way down to the gum line
  • Ignoring all surfaces of teeth, particularly the inside surfaces nearest the tongue and toward the back of the mouth
  • Using a toothbrush that is too large or too small, or one that does not have the right type of bristles

Unfortunately, because brushing teeth is taught to us as children and repeated so often, day in and day out for years and years, the habit becomes so ingrained that we very rarely ever think about the process until a problem arises and we find ourselves consulting our dentists. Keeping common brushing mistakes in mind while engaging in this daily process is the only way to avoid potentially painful and costly consequences. If current generations are more informed of proper brushing habits by dental authorities, future generations will be more mindful as well and, therefore, healthier in general.

Consequences of Poor Brushing Habits

The obvious consequences of failing to brush teeth regularly are well-known to nearly everyone: cavities, gum disease and tooth sensitivity are common issues. In fact, recent studies show that one in five Americans has at least one untreated cavity and that half of those individuals are unaware of the fact that there is anything at all wrong with their teeth. In addition to the more commonly cited consequences of poor oral hygiene and improper brushing, there are a few more symptoms of which patients at risk should be aware:

  • Increased plaque buildup, which hardens into tartar (this can only be removed by a professional)
  • Gum recession with repeated intense brushing
  • Staining of teeth in areas neglected by “pattern brushing” (always brushing the same places)

If you feel that you may have developed poor brushing habits, talk to your dental professional about ways to correct this process before it causes potentially permanent harm to your teeth and gums. Your dentist can help you find the ideal dental hygiene products and brushing process to fit your particular circumstances.

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