This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
Brushing your teeth. It’s something you should be doing every day, but are you making some common mistakes? Read our article below for some tips and tricks to ensure you are caring for your teeth in the best possible way, including whether to brush your teeth before or after breakfast.
What brush should I use?
Some people find it easier to get the best results using an electric toothbrush, but as long as you are brushing properly with a manual toothbrush, they are equally as effective.
As most people may not brush properly, or enough, an electric toothbrush might produce better results.
If your dentist recommends that you use an electric toothbrush, you should follow their advice.
What toothpaste should I use?
The thing to look for when buying toothpaste is the fluoride content.
The recommended dosage of fluoride is 1,400 PPM (parts per million). If you are at a higher risk of tooth decay, you might want to consider a higher dosage. Other ingredients to look for include triclosan and calcium phosphate, as these can improve effectiveness.
Children don’t need special children’s toothpaste. As long as the family toothpaste contains between 1,350 to 1,500 ppm fluoride, children of all ages can use it. Children aged under 6 years old who don’t have tooth decay can use children’s toothpaste, but make sure it still contains at least 1,000 ppm fluoride.
Best and worse times to brush
You should be brushing your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day. The most important time to clean your teeth is just before you go to sleep.
The worst time to brush your teeth is after anything acidic (including after vomiting). Acidic food and drinks make the outer layer of your enamel softer, meaning brushing will cause damage. This damage is what causes sensitivity and makes teeth morel liable to staining.
Instead of brushing after something acidic, its better to try to neutralise the acid with a glass of water or reverse the damage with something high in calcium and phosphate like cheese or milk.
Before or after breakfast?
Unfortunately, there is no one answer! If you’re going to eat something with a high sugar content and won’t be drinking anything acidic like fruit juices, brushing after breakfast would be best. However, if you’re going to be eating or drinking anything acidic, it would be advisable for you to brush before.
How to brush properly
When brushing, the brush should be angled at 45 degrees to the gumline. You should brush all three external surfaces of your teeth – the outside, the inside and the ‘biting surface’ (top). Ensure you are paying particular attention to the gumline, as this is where plaque and food can collect.
Children should be supervised brushing their teeth until they’re at least 7 years old. Children aged up to 3 years only need a smear of toothpaste, whereas children ages 3 to 6 years need a pea-sized amount. Make sure children don't lick or eat toothpaste from the tube.
Guide your child’s hand so they can feel the correct movement and use a mirror so they can see what’s happening. Use an egg timer or song they like to make sure they brush for 2 minutes. Don’t let children run around with a toothbrush in their mouth as they may have an accident and hurt themselves.
There are 2 main areas that people often forget that they should be brushing – between the teeth and the surface of the tongue.
Cleaning the surfaces between your teeth once a day helps to remove plaque that normal brushing may miss. To do this, you can either use floss or interdental brushes.
Interdental brushes come in lots of shapes and sizes, but you should aim to use the largest brush that will still fit between your teeth. As well as this, the gaps between your teeth are different sizes, so you need at least 2 differently sized interdental brushes. If the space is toot tight, you should use floss. Brushing between your teeth shouldn’t take more than a minute, and you only need to do it once a day.
You should also brush your tongue. It may feel weird, but the bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease can stick to your tongue and even the lining of your cheek.
Don’t rinse after brushing
As mentioned above, the most important ingredient in toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride strengthens the outer surface of your teeth, making them more resistant to harmful acids. If you rinse your mouth out with water, you are washing all that precious fluoride down the drain.
Should I use mouthwash?
In the same way that water rinses away fluoride, if the mouthwash you are using contains less fluoride than your toothpaste, you’re worse off for using it. It’s better to use mouthwash at a different time, like after lunch. You also shouldn’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after using a fluoride mouthwash.
Visit your dentist
Your dentist will be able to advise the best products and practices for your individual dental needs. If you’re concerned about your teeth, you should visit your dentist.