Seven dental mistakes you might be making

It’s been instilled in us since day dot: brushing your teeth twice a day will help keep the dentist away.

But it’s easy to go overboard on the brushing, fret about staining, or make silly – and potentially harmful – mistakes.

To brighten your smile, experts share some of the common oral health mistakes you might be making – and how to fix them.

1. Not cleaning in between teeth

Pack of dental floss
(Alamy/PA)

“Brushing only cleans three out of the five tooth surfaces,” says dental hygienist Anna Middleton.

“However, interdental cleaning with floss or brushes helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease, which can occur when food and plaque are left lodged between teeth.”

If you have space between your teeth, Ms Middleton says to opt for interdental brushes, and always use the biggest size possible – you may need more than one size.

“If your teeth are tight together, dental floss is recommended. Do this once a day, preferably at night and in front of the mirror.” And if you hate flossing, why not try a water flosser?

Read: Five myths and facts about keeping your teeth healthy

2. Only brushing the teeth and not the gums

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“Many of us forget to brush our gums when we brush our teeth,” says Ms Middleton – but it’s crucial “because this is where plaque will sit.”

Her pro tip? “When using an electric toothbrush, place the bristles against the teeth at a 45-degree angle towards the gum line. Hold the handle gently with a light grip, and apply only light pressure. Glide the brush across your teeth and gums gently, allowing your brush to do most of the work.”

3. Not brushing long enough
“Brushing your teeth is one of the most important tasks we do each day, but some of us don’t dedicate enough time to it,” says dental surgeon Dr Theo Sioutis.

“Rushing the job means you might miss surface areas – such as between the teeth or along the gum line, leading to plaque and bacteria build-up, and risking long-term problems such as cavities and gum disease.”

It’s an easy fix. Dr Sioutis says: “Brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, making sure you don’t miss the harder-to-reach places, should ensure you remove all the plaque and germs that can otherwise build up.”

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4. Brushing too hard
Not only is brushing too lightly a common mistake, but brushing too hard is not good either. It can be difficult to find the right amount of pressure to apply when brushing your teeth, but too much pressure can have negative consequences.

Over-aggressive brushing can slowly erode the enamel of your teeth and lead to gum recession, potentially exposing nerves and roots.

If you feel your teeth are becoming more sensitive or your gums start receding, it could be a sign you need to apply less pressure. To fix this problem, try holding the toothbrush with just three fingers, or switching to a brush with softer bristles.

Read: Bad breath is bad for your social calendar – and for your health

5. Not replacing your toothbrush

Electric toothbrush and round brush heads
(Alamy/PA)

The bristles on your toothbrush become splayed and less effective over time, meaning they can’t tackle the harder-to-reach places such as between the teeth. Germs can also become a problem when a toothbrush has been used for too long.

Experts recommend changing your toothbrush or brush head at least every 12 to 16 weeks.

6. Brushing at the wrong times
When you brush your teeth is crucial. Brushing immediately after consuming acidic foods such as coffee or orange juice can be harmful to the enamel, as you’re effectively brushing the acid onto your teeth.

Make sure to wait around 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods or drinks to brush your teeth. Your mouth needs time to produce saliva to neutralise the acid, and make it safe to brush again.

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7. Using the wrong type of electric toothbrush
There are many different types of electric toothbrushes, but Ms Middleton says the best are “rotary/oscillating heads and sonic vibration heads”.

She continues: “Rotary/oscillating heads are small and round, rotating in one direction and then the other, one tooth at a time to sweep plaque away. Often these heads pulsate, too.

“Sonic heads vibrate at certain high speeds and frequencies to break down plaque, as well as agitate the toothpaste and fluid in the mouth to clean between teeth and along the gumline.”

Read: Dental expert tells what happens to your teeth as you age

She says both types will remove more plaque than a manual toothbrush, and suggests avoiding battery-operated toothbrushes. “They’re not effective and the tendency to ‘scrub’ with one remains, which can lead to damage of the gums,” she adds.

– With PA

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