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Tune in for Clean Teeth

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Tune in for Clean Teeth

Tune in for Clean Teeth

August 01, 2005
By: Jean Johnson for Dental1

We’ve come a long way since the Chinese invented the toothbrush in 1,000 AD. Still, although we moderns tend to think we brush our teeth long enough, most of us spend less than a minute at the task.

Not long enough, say the experts. Since every mouth is different, dentists recommend various approaches. Some say two minutes twice a day works. But most agree that at least three to four minutes – the length of the average song – is the minimum preferred at twice a day.
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Tips for a healthy mouth:

Add a gentle brushing to the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.

Breath mints, mouth sprays, and gum are just cover ups. Genuinely nice breath comes with good oral hygiene.

Despite advertisements offering whitening compounds and tartar control pyrophosphates, fluoride is the element key to protecting teeth and keeping mouths healthy.


Portland prosthodontist, Nader Rassouli, D.D.S., M.S., takes it a step further, though. “Eight minutes,” Rassouli said. “That’s what you need to really clean a full set of teeth. You have to really get them cleaned. So it takes eight minutes twice a day – morning and night.”

Given his specialty in restorative dentistry, it’s easy to see why Rassouli advocates the Mercedes Benz approach to dental hygiene. He’s seen more than one mouth in an advanced state of neglect – missing teeth and decay that could have been avoided had patients practiced good habits. More, since about one in 10 people have a tendency to accumulate tartar quickly, those that spend extra time brushing have better chances of using their hard earned cash for a trip to Paris instead of visits to a dental specialist like Rassouli.

We here at Dental1 experimented with the different times, and our informal research has us willing to attest to the idea that an eight-minute brush does make a difference. Our teeth felt almost as clean as they do after seeing the hygienist, even if we did find the time factor a bit tedious. Then again maybe we just weren’t tuned into the right radio station. Still, our consensus is that we’d reserve the eight-minute routine for once or twice a week when we were feeling particularly virtuous. During the interim, we thought the single-song approach was more realistic – especially if the DJ spun out an Eric Clapton tune.

But once the radio’s on, some attention to technique also helps. A circular motion – as opposed to a back and forth or up and down approach – is our friend. Working in circles over a small group of teeth at a time, gradually covering the entire mouth, helps keep the gum surface from receding and protects tender root surfaces just under the gum line. Small toothbrush heads are best and angling the brush at a 45 degree angle to the tooth surface is recommended.

Sugars and starches are the enemies, of course. To keep these at bay, choose a toothpaste with fluoride. Also if unable to brush after snacking on sugary foods and drinks or carbohydrates like chips that break down into cavity-causing sugars relatively quickly, at least rinse the mouth with water for 30 seconds.

Better yet, keep a toothbrush at work, say the pros. Indeed, a recent survey by Oral-B Laboratories and the Academy of General Dentistry concluded that those of us who keep a toothbrush at work are 65 percent more likely to brush during the day than our non-brush-toting counterparts. More, experts say that if people use a fluoride toothpaste both in the morning and before going to bed, brushing with plain water during the day works great.

The there’s flossing that seals the deal on the bargain. Many times un-waxed floss is recommended because it is thinner and easier to slide between the small spaces of the teeth. But studies have shown that all types of floss have close to the same effectiveness. So all it takes is our willingness to swipe eight to 10 times per surface and pay attention to wrapping the floss around the tooth at least to some extent. Yet another reason to choose your station carefully and hope for Eric Clapton, or in the event of an eight minute session, “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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