Something concerning that we have noticed in the few short months since we have started our dental practice in Great Neck was that proper oral care is not as common knowledge as many would assume.
We have noticed that although nearly everyone brushes at least once per day, many don’t quite have the technique down, leaving behind yesterday’s BBQ in the tough to reach places 🙂
Top hidden plaque trapping areas:
- Inside of lower back teeth
- Outside of upper back teeth
- Gumline of upper and lower front teeth
Let’s go back to the anatomy of a tooth. Teeth have 5 surfaces: outside towards the cheek, tops where the chewing happens, inside towards the tongue or palate, and front and back which contact adjacent teeth. Toothbrushes are meant to clean the outside, tops and inside surfaces of teeth. But even the fanciest of toothbrushes cannot get to the in-between areas next to neighboring teeth. They can tell you through their bluetooth smartphone app whether or not you’re doing a good enough job, but that’s it. That’s where flossing comes in. We will get to that in another post so for now you’re off the hook!
The general method to brushing your teeth is to not actually brush the teeth but instead aim at the gums. In another words your target area is where the tooth and gums meet. That’s where everything collects.
Problem area #1. Most of us have tongues. Some of us have really big and strong tongues. These tongues have a mind of their own and tend to push on things in their way. Such as toothbrushes. When we are brushing our teeth, by the time we get to lower back teeth most people mainly brush the tops and move on. This leaves much plaque to be removed at your dental cleanings that sometimes can get a little uncomfortable (if we are doing our job right). The trick here is to bring the bristles of the tooth brush down at the gums of the lower teeth (premolars and molars) and not let the tongue get in your way. Something else that could make this more complicated is some people have lower teeth that tilt inward a little bit so it is even tougher to get underneath them on the inside to get to the gums. Similarly follow this idea on the outside of these teeth. That’s a hot spot also and sometimes can be tough to get to because of the cheek and our jawbone. But this is the only way to do it right and keep plaque away. Otherwise we can only get to it every 6 months!
Problem area #2. When it comes time for the top teeth, the outsides rarely get brushed. Many people think that to get to the outside of back teeth they have to open really wide. After all they are all the way back there. This is actually wrong. You see if you open all the way and try to push your toothbrush to the outside of your back teeth you will most likely hit your cheek and portion of your lower jawbone under that cheek. When we open wide that bone moves to that position preventing us to get all the way back there. What you really need to do is to close your mouth about halfway and drift your jaw to the side that you’re trying to brush. This opens up a ton of room to allow the head of the toothbrush to get back there and will allow you to angle the bristles to get to the gums. Try it next time you brush. When we explain this to our patients, we usually get a big “A-HA” moment.
Problem area #3. And finally our last area: top and bottom front teeth. These teeth are naturally made pretty tall. Much taller that the thickness of a tooth brush. Similarly to the other problem areas, many people are not cleaning these teeth at their gumline, since it is so far away from the edges of the teeth. Imagine you’re brushing your front teeth. Most likely you’re looking at the mirror, retracting your lips tightly to expose your front teeth and brushing away. That’s actually preventing you from doing a good job. When you pull your lips away, you’re tightening their muscles and preventing the toothbrush from reaching the gumline. So just like in the other examples, you want to angle the bristles up toward the gums (down in the case of bottom teeth), loosen your lips and get your toothbrush under there to brush where the tooth comes out of the gums.
Try these little modifications next time you brush and see if it makes a difference. To check if you’re doing a good job, next time after you’re finished brushing you can run your tongue across your gumline to see if anything is left behind. And for your front teeth simply lift up your lip to see the gumline and see if any plaque remains.
We hope this helps keep your mouth healthy and clean (and your dentist or hygienist happy).