Back to Basics: Brush up on your skills

Couple brushing teeth in the bathroom

Brushing our teeth is something the majority of us do and have done for as long as we can remember. It sounds a straight forward task, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t a struggle to get it right and many have not been educated in the art of good brushing.

‘I can’t understand it, I brush my teeth at least 3 times a day..’ is something I regularly hear from patients when I highlight issues with their brushing, but as I always say if you keep missing the same area it wouldn’t matter if you brushed them 100 times a day.

The key as with many things in life is quality over quantity so here are a few key tips to ensure your brushing is more effective:

  1. The timed brush – whether this be using a manual or electric toothbrush it needs to be for at least two minutes to effectively brush all the surfaces of all your teeth. Don’t try to guess how long you are brushing for as you will undoubtedly fall short; I have tested this with my patients and they rarely brush beyond 40 seconds. This is where an electric toothbrush has a real advantage as nearly all come with a timer. Many patients are unaware the timer exists so if you find yourself in this situation look out for a vibration or flashing light, some will even alert you at 30 second intervals to indicate moving to the next quadrant of your mouth so that each receives an even clean. If you are unsure take your toothbrush to your next hygiene visit, they will be more than happy to help you to find out.
  2. Brush twice a day – one of these brushes should be last thing at night.
  3. Small compact head – a smaller head is usually easier to access all areas of the mouth.
  4. Slow – slow and steady definitely wins the race. With a manual toothbrush slow and circular movements and with an electric toothbrush hold the brush still on each tooth surface before moving on to the next.
  5. Change your brush regularly – every 3 months as a guide or sooner if the bristles appear frayed.
  6. Spit don’t rinse – this is key as it allows the fluoride in the toothpaste to stay in contact with the teeth for as long as possible helping to reduce the risk of tooth decay.



Hygienist vs Therapist: What’s the difference?

When I introduce myself as a dental therapist I am often greeted with a slightly vague look so I often revert to using the title dental hygienist as it is a term people are more familiar with. I thought I would kick things of by explaining briefly the role of both a hygienist and a therapist.

A dental hygienist is a registered dental professional who helps both children and adults maintain their oral health by preventing and treating gum (periodontal) disease and promoting good oral health care. You will often hear the term ‘scale and polish’, but this is very much an over simplified description of what a hygienist does.

To provide more details and without getting too technical, a hygienists role primarily includes (but is not limited to), educating patients on the best oral hygiene practices, assessment and monitoring of gum health, oral cancer screening, routine and deep scaling, fluoride application and fissure sealants, dental impressions, teeth whitening

The role of a dental therapist is less commonly understood but encompasses everything  of a hygienist whilst also being able to perform additional procedures such as child and adult fillings and extractions of primary (baby) teeth.

This is a very brief overview of each role. A more detailed list of the full scope of practice can be found at the following link:

General Dental Council – Scope of Practice (September 2013)