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How hard should I brush – and when?

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There’s more to this brushing thing than meets the eye. Read on for the how, the when and the why.

Brushing your teeth tends to be quite a private exercise, so we don't often get to see our patients putting their brushing skills into practice. When we ask them about their brushing techniques, however, it pretty clearly becomes obvious that there are a lot of conflicting methods out there – not all of them fit for purpose!


One of the big mistakes that people make on a regular basis is brushing too hard. You’ll know if you’re brushing too hard by the shape of your toothbrush. If it looks like you’ve been using it to scour the kitchen floor, then you're leaning too hard on the brush – it's as simple as that.


Another telltale sign that you may be brushing too hard is when you see an area of your roots that’s exposed to the naked eye (and assuming there’s no previous history of gum disease). You're most likely to spot this on your premolars, your first molars or your canine.


This sign of excessive wear will very likely be spotted by your dentist, who will ask you to ‘back off’ a little when applying the elbow grease to your toothbrush.


It’s difficult to give written advice on how hard is too hard, but as a general rule, you should try holding the brush in your hand in the same way as you'd hold a pen – and apply roughly the same amount of pressure as you'd use on the pen while writing.


You need to remember that plaque is quite a soft substance, so it doesn’t need an awful lot of pressure to remove it. The hard tartar that your dentist sometimes removes is not normal plaque. Rather, it’s plaque that’s been left untreated for a long time. This tartar is normally found on the back of your lower front teeth and it simply can’t be removed by brushing – you’ll have to visit your dentist or dental hygienist.


To keep you on the right track, here are some simple rules to observe.


  • Brush at least twice a day, for two minutes each time, with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use the correct technique as outlined above.
  • Use small, gentle movements with not too much pressure applied.
  • As soon as the bristles start to look a tad out of shape, it's time to replace the brush.
  • Make sure that you brush the space between the tooth and the gum-line.
  • Don’t lose concentration, as you're bound to miss parts of your mouth if you stray into auto-pilot mode.
  • If you’ve eaten anything sugary or acidic, wait for thirty to sixty minutes before brushing your teeth.
  • Have a fixed regime, e.g. start from top left to bottom right.
  • If you see any signs of bleeding, or feel discomfort, back off – you're brushing too hard.


If you stick to this type of regular regime, carried out properly, you can avert a lot of serious dental intervention down the line – maybe something quite intrusive such as a dental bridge, for example.


One further point to make before wrapping up this article. If you want to know what our fees are, we make it as easy as possible by adhering to the  Code of Practice of Irish Dental Council for the display of fees – you can check it out here. http://www.dentalcouncil.ie/files/Display%20of%20Private%20Fees%20%20Code%20of%20Practice%20%28Feb%202011%29%20-%2020110330.pdf


So whether it's a dental bridge cost or the cost of clear braces, you’ll see the price indicated clearly right around our surgery.