Answers to commonly asked questions about home care

How should I choose oral care products?

Even savvy shoppers can be baffled by the seemingly endless variety of dental care products. Choose products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance an important symbol of a dental product's safety and effectiveness. Oral care products that may carry the ADA Seal include:

  • toothpaste
  • manual and electric toothbrushes
  • floss
  • other interdental cleaning aids
  • mouthrinses and oral irrigators
How often should I replace my toothbrush?

Treat yourself to a new toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become worn, splayed or frayed. A hard, brittle brush can injure your gums. Children's brushes may need to be replaced more often, as they can wear them out more quickly.

Does it matter what kind of toothbrush I use?

Yes. Choosing the right toothbrush can help prevent damage to your teeth and gums. Use an ADA-accepted toothbrush that has polished bristles, as they are less likely to injure gum tissue. Also use a size and shape that feels comfortable and allows you to reach the surfaces of every tooth. Replace your brush if the bristles become worn, splayed or frayed. A hard, brittle brush can injure your gums. Because children often chew on their brushes, they can become worn out more quickly.

What is the proper way to brush my teeth?

Thorough brushing twice a day, and cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or other interdental cleaners, remove plaque. Keep these tips in mind when brushing your teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and use a gentle tooth-wide, back-and-forth motion. Remember to clean the inside teeth surfaces where plaque deposits are heavy, and clean the back teeth and tongue. Replace your brush when the bristles become frayed or worn about every three to four months.

Can I damage my teeth if I brush improperly?

Yes. Even though teeth are protected by a hard layer of enamel, they can become worn out from improper toothbrushing. Toothbrush abrasion can occur on the crown of the teeth as well as in the softer cementum that covers the tooth roots, which can be exposed by receding gums. These exposed surfaces can become more prone to decay. When you brush, be sure to use gentle, short, tooth-wide strokes.

How do I clean between teeth?

Floss and other interdental cleaners remove plaque from between the teeth and under the gumline, areas where the toothbrush can't reach. If you haven't been in the habit, it's never too late to start. When flossing, keep in mind these tips. Gently ease the floss between the teeth and gumline, never snap it. Form a "c" against the sides of both teeth and gently rub the floss up and down the tooth, moving it from under the gumline to the top of the tooth. Establish a regular pattern of flossing and remember to floss the backside of the last teeth. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.

What are oral irrigating devices?

Oral irrigating devices use a stream of water to remove food particles from around the teeth. They are meant to be used as an aid and not to replace regular brushing or cleaning between the teeth with floss or interdental cleaners. Oral irrigators are helpful for people who have braces or fixed partial dentures.

If I install a water filter, will it remove fluoride from the water?

Depending upon the filtration system that you use at home, journal articles have reported that reverse osmosis and distillation filtration units do remove varying amounts of fluoride from the water. Activated carbon units were shown to remove only trace amounts. Several tests of water filters, however, have shown conflicting answers. Consult with your family dentist about your family's fluoride needs.

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Stuart A. Greene, DDS-FAGD
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