The Toothbrush Debate…
It is my belief that just about every adult patient (and every young patient in braces) should have an electric toothbrush. There are 2 reasons for this: time spent brushing and force of brushing.
When I was a student in dental school I had a professor that said a manual toothbrush could be as effective as an electric brush if used properly, and technically that is true. What I have realized after looking at teeth for 20 years is that we are simply too impatient. In the morning, we’re in a rush and in the evening we’re too tired to use a manual brush properly, and it is really difficult to change our habits.
If you use a manual brush time yourself brushing. The proper amount of time to brush is 2 minutes, at least 2 minutes. For many people this will seem like an eternity. One of the major benefits of an electric toothbrush is that most of them run for 2 minutes, so you turn it on and you know you are done when it turns off. Still, it can be a challenge to stand there and stare at yourself in the mirror and wait for the full 2 minutes, so I recommend walking around while you brush so you give yourself the full time. Sometimes in the evenings, when you are not so rushed getting out of the door to start your day, you may want to do 3-4 minutes of brushing, especially if you have a lot of fillings or crowns, which can hold bacteria more than enamel. If you have issues with receding gums or have had gum grafts or have sensitive teeth, it is better to stick to the 2 minutes because you can actually brush too much or too hard. This brings us to the next major benefit of an electric toothbrush!
Not only can electric toothbrushes clear away bacteria well, they can also be more gentle. Most people brush way too hard, which can cause gum recession and even can wear away your teeth. With an electric toothbrush you just hold it against your teeth and gums and it does the work, removing the tendency to brush too forcefully. Most toothpastes are abrasive, especially some of the whitening toothpastes. Most whitening toothpastes do not bleach your teeth, they make them whiter by scouring stains off. There was a study done with a toothbrush on a mechanical arm brushing against teeth for a couple of hundred thousand cycles. When only water was used there was no damage to the teeth, but when toothpaste was added, large notches were worn in the teeth.
Now, toothpaste is vital as a carrier for fluoride, but if you have gum recession or sensitive teeth, sometimes the plainer, the better (plain gel or paste.) Many manual toothbrushes also have medium or firm bristles. Never buy anything firmer than a soft bristled toothbrush. The brushing motion should not involve hard scrubbing. Brushing should be thorough, not forceful. Time spent brushing is much more important than heavy force. Again, brushing too hard is often a difficult habit to break, thus increasing the value of an electric toothbrush.
So if you don’t have an electric toothbrush yet, start checking them out. I think your future dental check-ups will thank you!
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