The Correct Way to Brush Your Teeth (and to Maintain Oral Health)

The Mouth Speaks Volumes

There are people—on television and in the movies—who, immediately after a long night’s sleep, turn towards their partners and kiss them intimately and intensely.  But in real life, people know better than to try such a stunt. While a warm embrace and a kiss on the lips (close-mouthed!) first thing in the morning are infinitely romantic, no true gentleman would impose morning-breath on his partner.

An ill-kept mouth is almost always a barometer for overall poor hygiene practices.  And one of the reasons many people have bad teeth is because many people brush their teeth badly. There are people, for example, who spend less than one minute brushing their teeth, when approximately ten to fifteen minutes should be allotted for the task.

Good teeth-brushing begins with a good, angled, soft-bristled toothbrush, which should be washed clean with a liquid soap-and-water solution before each use (once per week in a chlorine), making sure that the brush is thoroughly rinsed with water before applying the toothpaste. (Millions of bacteria are spread around a bathroom each time a toilet is flushed with its lid open, and many of those bacteria settle and thrive upon damp, exposed toothbrushes). (Hard-bristled toothbrushes should be outlawed—except for brushing dentures and scrubbing toilets. Hard toothbrushes ruin teeth and gums).

Not just the “smile-side” of teeth should be brushed; also the “chew-side” and the “back-side.” When an additional application of toothpaste is needed, the brush should be rinsed clean before the application.

But obtaining and maintaining a clean mouth each day requires more than just brushing the teeth therein.  The tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, the area beneath the tongue, and cheeks should all be brushed—after all, what would be the point of having clean teeth next to an unclean tongue, for example. In effect, then, it is the entire inside of the mouth that should be brushed—not just the teeth—if proper oral hygiene is to be attained.  A thorough rinse and gargle with water completes the task. The toothbrush should be rinsed clean before being replaced in its receptacle; there are few things more disgusting than a toothbrush with accumulated toothpaste residue at the base of its bristles. After all, it is difficult to obtain a clean mouth with a filthy toothbrush.  And, incidentally (pardon the pun), tubes of toothpaste should always be resealed.

After brushing and rinsing, the mouth may be given an additional rinse with mouthwash. There are many commercially available brands, each one claiming to be better than the next for one reason or another. Those with medicine-like aftertaste and smell should probably be avoided since the objective is for the mouth to smell clean and fresh, not like a first-aid kit. One of the most effective post-brushing oral rinses is the age-old solution of water and hydrogen peroxide (or “oxygenated water,” as it is sometimes called in Europe and South America):  a mouth half-filled with water to which two capfuls of hydrogen peroxide are added. After a vigorous swishing and gargling, which gives the solution a frothy consistency, the mouth, after the solution has been released into a receptacle, should be rinsed clean with fresh water.  The end result is a fresh, tasteless, odorless, clean. And unlike many commercial mouthwashes, the hydrogen peroxide-and-water solution also serves to remove traces of blood which may have been caused by abrasive toothbrush bristles during the brushing phase.

Another age-old formula for maintaining oral health is a post-brushing, final rinse comprised of regular chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite [5.25% NaOCl]), preferably the Clorox brand, and water.  One-half teaspoon of regular, normal-strength, unscented, unadulterated chlorine bleach is diluted with one cup of lukewarm water (one part bleach to 20 parts water is recommended).  A mouthful of the solution is swished around the mouth for about 20 seconds, then discarded into a receptacle. The process is repeated for another 20 seconds. Unlike the hydrogen peroxide solution described above, the chlorine solution is not to be gargled. None of the solution should be swallowed.  After the solution is released from the mouth, the mouth is rinsed thoroughly with fresh water. A final gargle with fresh water will rid the throat of any chlorine-solution residue that may have escaped the fresh-water rinse. The chlorine-solution regimen serves to eradicate many of the mouth’s harmful bacteria, thereby promoting healthier gums and fresh breath. But in order to allow for the existence of the mouth’s beneficial bacteria, it is recommended that the solution be used once per day for a two-week period, every other two weeks. Some dentists insist that the solution be used once per day on an uninterrupted daily basis. A gentleman should consult with his dentist before commencing the regimen.

Flossing has also become a part of the oral hygiene routine. When teeth are very tightly spaced, however, flossing is not recommended as it usually results in ruptured gums caused when the floss damages the tender gums as it is forced through the tightly spaced teeth. And ruptured gums contribute to gum disease, tooth decay, and offensive breath.

Teeth should be brushed first thing in the morning (A morning shower, somehow, feels less cleansing if not preceded by teeth-brushing) and last thing at night (It is amazing how much more bearable morning-breath is if teeth had been brushed just before going to bed).  On occasion, additional brushing during the course of a day may be required or desired, though too much brushing can be stressful on the teeth and gums.

Bathroom glasses—the ones some people use to rinse their mouths while brushing their teeth—are infinitely unsanitary. Just think of the amount of germs that accumulate on them just by being in a bathroom, let alone the fact that most people who use them do not wash them with soap and water before and after use.  When there is a preference for rinsing the mouth with water from a cup, disposable paper cups—concealed in some sanitary dispenser—should be used instead, the cup discarded after each use.

Likewise, when toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, razors, and the like are kept in glasses, those glasses should be washed with soap and water at least every other day:  Water residue from the items placed into bathroom glasses settle at the bottom of those glasses, serving as a breeding ground for germs. And it is important that vanity mirrors be wiped clean of any toothpaste-splattering that might have occurred during brushing. A sheet of paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol is excellent for cleaning mirrors, streak-free, residue-free.


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