Brushing teeth: myth busters
Here are some of our myth busters to help your patients protect their teeth.
Baby teeth don't matter
It's really important to start encouraging your child to brush their teeth as soon as their first teeth come through.
It's never easy to get a child to focus on brushing, but the earlier you get them used to it, the more likely they will be to get into a good routine.
Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear.
Appointments for children are free, and this will get your child used to check-ups and your dentist can give you information and advice on how to look after baby teeth.
Your child should then go for check-ups at least once a year, from 18 months old.
Baby teeth have thinner and often less strong enamel, so have less protection against bacteria that metabolise sugar and cause tooth decay.
Severe decay in baby teeth can cause abscesses that can harm your child's later, permanent teeth. If dental extractions are required for baby teeth, children are more likely to develop crooked or problematic teeth, as baby teeth help to create the right spacing.
The number one reason for children to be admitted to hospital for a general anaesthic in the UK is for tooth extractions – don't put yourself and your child through this horror.
Make sure they brush with a fluoride toothpaste (your dentist can advise on which one is best for your child, and information is also available here).
Always supervise brushing for children under 7, and ensure your child has a healthy diet – read our advice on how to #cutsugar and protect teeth.
Brushing once a day is fine
No it isn't.
To help protect your teeth you need to brush for at least two minutes, twice a day.
There are many electric toothbrushes on the market that have timers that can help make sure you are brushing for long enough.
It doesn't matter if you use an electric or manual toothbrush in terms of keeping your teeth clean, as long as you brush all the surfaces of your teeth carefully and use a fluoride toothpaste.
Spit, don't rinse after brushing – this is so the fluoride in your toothpaste works for longer and protects your teeth better.
I can use mouthwash instead of brushing
No – nothing beats brushing.
Using a mouthwash that contains fluoride can help to prevent tooth decay, but it doesn't replace brushing to ensure food build-up and plaque are removed from your teeth.
If you are unsure if using a mouthwash will help your oral health routine, then ask your dentist. They can advise on whether you need to use mouthwash and recommend one that is appropriate for your needs if so.
Don't use mouthwash straight after brushing your teeth or it will wash away the fluoride in your toothpaste (even if the mouthwash has fluoride, your toothpaste's fluoride is more effective at protecting teeth).
Do I have to clean between my teeth?
Cleaning between your teeth is very important and this can be done with either interdental brushes or floss.
The smaller interdental brushes work very well and if you have tight contacts then you may need to use floss.
Ask your dentist, and they can advise on the best way to keep your teeth clean.
Older people's teeth, or dentures, don't need brushing
Yes they do, it's really important for teeth to be looked after at any age, as good oral health can have a huge impact on quality of life, particularly for older people.
If you are caring for an older person, encourage them to brush twice a day and support them to brush if they need help.
Dentures need to be looked after to ensure longevity and oral hygiene.
Here are our top tips for caring for dentures:
- We recommend brushing the gums, tongue and palate with a soft-bristled brush. Dentures should be cleaned daily with a strong but soft bristled brush to remove food deposits and plaque.
- You should use a specialist denture cleaner or soap and water as recommended by your dentist.
- Dentures should be left out of the mouth between 4 and 8 hours during every 24 hour period, if possible.
- Ensuring you visit a dentist regularly for check-ups, to make sure everything is working well.
What is the BDA doing?
When it comes to oral health, we believe in #preventionfirst: tooth decay is an avoidable disease and we are campaigning for Government's to take this problem seriously, to act now and invest in real prevention.
See our brushing top tips for your patients.
Where can I find out more?
The NHS has great up-to-date advice and tips on how to brush teeth and dental health more widely, go to NHS Choices.
The Oral Health Foundation is an independent charity focusing on promoting good oral health and provides advice and support for patients, including a dental helpline.
About the BDA
The British Dental Association (BDA) is the professional association and trade union for dentists in the UK. It represents dentists working in general practice, in community and hospital settings, in academia and research, and in the armed forces, and includes dental students. The BDA promotes members' interests, advances the science, arts and ethics of dentistry, and contributes towards improving the nation's oral health.
You can follow news from the BDA on Twitter. Membership packages reflect the varied needs of dentists.
Page last updated 31 August 2016.