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Looking after your teeth and gums

15 April, 2016

Our dental hygiene is something we often take for granted. We all like to brush our teeth two, maybe three times a day, but is this the right amount? Are we brushing our teeth correctly? Is there a certain way to do it? Is flossing really necessary?

Although we are told by our parents when we grow up to brush our teeth, and our dentist will explain the best ways to keep our mouths healthy, there are some tips we often forget about once we’ve left the dentists’ office. We look at all of the basics to keeping your teeth healthy, clean, and cavity free, so at your next dental visit you’ll have a very pleasantly surprised dentist.

How to brush your teeth

It’s the quintessential every day, mindless task. And sure, just brushing your teeth at all is better than not doing the job altogether. However, there are some ways you can brush your teeth to make those few minutes a day more effective and keep your smile white:

  • Brush for at least two minutes. Many adults don’t brush their teeth for long enough, so to help you get a feel for the right time, use a stopwatch to ensure you’re brushing for at least 120 seconds.
  • Use short, gentle strokes whilst brushing, and focus on the hard-to-reach areas at the back teeth, the gum line, and around fillings and crowns.
  • Start with cleaning the outer surfaces of your upper teeth then follow this with the lower teeth.
  • Brush the inner surfaces of the top teeth then follow this with the same for the bottom teeth.
  • Brush the chewing surfaces on the top and bottom areas.
  • Brush your tongue. Some toothbrushes will also have a tongue scraper/brush on the back of the bristles to clean your tongue.
  • Tilt the brush at a 45 degree angle and place it at the gum line. Then, sweep or “roll” the brush away from the gum line. 

What toothbrush should I use?

Many dentists agree that a soft bristled brush is the best type of brush to use. A smaller headed brush is also ideal, as it can get to hard to reach places a little easier, especially at the back teeth and the gum line.

Many people opt for a powered toothbrush as when used properly help to clean teeth a little better. They’re also a good option for people who have limited manual dexterity, or have difficulty brushing their teeth. 

What toothpaste should I use? Does it really matter?


There are so many different types of toothpaste on the market, all made for different scenarios. It is best to choose a toothpaste you require for your own needs. If you want a paste that will help whiten your teeth, there is a product on the shelves for you. The same applies to toothpastes to help with cavities, gingivitis, sensitivity and tartar.

Your dental hygienist will be able to recommend a toothpaste if you have specific dental needs or are simply not sure on which one to choose. 

How often should I change my toothbrush?

You will need to change your toothbrush every three months, or when it starts to show wear - whichever comes first. You should also change your toothbrush after you’ve had a cold or flu, as the toothbrush can collect germs which may lead to reinfection. 

When should I floss my teeth?

Flossing should be completed daily after brushing your teeth. The best way to do it is in a slow, gentle, sawing motion between the teeth. Don’t force the floss between teeth as this may lead to damage to the gums. 

Are there any foods or drinks that should be avoided?

You should try and limit your intake of acidic drinks such as soft drinks, cordial and fruit juices. Sugary foods should also be limited, as dental plaque changes sugars into acids. These acids can dissolve the enamel in your teeth, causing cavities and sensitivity in your teeth. If severe, these acids may ‘eat away” at your teeth, right down to the very gums. 

Is there anything stopping my teeth from staying white?

Some people find it hard to keep their “pearly whites” white. The culprit can be as simple as the foods and drinks being consumed. As a rule, if it is dark before consuming it, it’s likely to stain your teeth. For example black coffee, tea and red wine. Smoking cigars and cigarettes will also stain your teeth further. 

Some dentists suggest going on a “white teeth” diet, which basically means eliminating these types of foods, drinks and consumables for a period of time to give your teeth a “break” from further stains.

What kinds of foods can I eat that will naturally help keep my teeth clean?

shutterstock_63699730It is thought that apples are “nature's toothbrush”, as they help to clean your teeth whilst on the go. You can eat foods that are firm or crisp to help keep your teeth clean whilst eating. Other foods include celery, raw carrots and popcorn. It is best to eat these foods last during your meal if you know you won’t be able to brush your teeth for a while.

Are there any “alternative” products I can use to help keep my teeth and mouth healthy?

There are plenty of tips on the internet to keeping your teeth and mouth healthy and clean. A great product is apple cider vinegar. It can be used to gargle with first thing in the morning before your normal brushing routine to help remove stains, whiten your teeth and kill bacteria in your mouth. Another great option is to wash your mouth out with an oil such as organic coconut oil (also known as oil pulling). An ancient method used for over 3,000 years, oil pulling is thought to help remove bacteria, germs, stains and whiten teeth. Some have even believed it helps increase energy levels, detox the body, keep skin looking clear, and reduce headaches. 


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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