The way your dentist sees it, your biggest enemy is tooth decay and the little particles of food left between your teeth that can lead to it. It almost goes without saying, then, that your biggest weapon in the fight against decay is — drum roll, please — your toothbrush. Good brushing and flossing habits, combined with regular dental cleanings and checkups, can help prevent tooth decay.
Like the fiercest warrior, you want the best weapon you can find, but choosing a toothbrush can be quite daunting, as the average drug store carries a full wall of toothbrushes with various shapes, bristles and moving parts. It’s a bit overwhelming.
To help guide you in the quest for the perfect brush, we offer the following tips, based on guidelines from the American Dental Association:
Replace your toothbrush regularly, usually about once every three to four months. When bristles begin to look worn or frayed and the brush begins to lose its shape, it’s time.
No one should use a brush with hard bristles as they can wear the enamel off teeth and push gums back too far. Better to use a brush with soft or medium hardness.
Size matters. Lengthwise, the brush should be long enough to brush two to three teeth at a time. Brushes that are about 1″ long are typically a good length for an adult.
Mechanical brushes aren’t necessarily better. What matters is that you brush for the recommended time, usually two to three minutes. Mechanical brushes, however, do tend to bode well for those who are physically challenged in some way or some children who tend not to brush well, especially in between the teeth.
Speaking of children, they should have soft bristled brushes with small heads and big handles to make it easier for them to grip.
What’s most important, dentists say, is that you choose a toothbrush that is comfortable both in your mouth and in your hand. It also should be one that helps motivate you to brush longer, and better.
They say that with age comes wisdom. Sometimes, though, other things happen as we age; things like arthritis that may make it difficult to care for your teeth.
Arthritis can make it very difficult to brush your teeth on a regular basis. The risk for cavities decreases as you age, but you can still get them. To help stop cavities and gum disease, you need to floss and brush on a regular basis. If your arthritis has made it difficult for you to brush and floss your teeth, these tips may help you.
First, consider an electric toothbrush. The handle on the toothbrush is a bit larger, making it easier to grasp, and you will not need to move the brush around quite as much. An added advantage to the electric toothbrush is that it is timed for the best possible amount of time needed for brushing. If you do not like the feel of an electric toothbrush, or cannot afford one, there are grips you can purchase to place on your toothbrush, making the handle larger, and there are also ball and cones that may slip on the end of the brush to make grasping easier. No matter what type of toothbrush you use, make sure you always use soft bristles as this helps prevent gum disease and is more comfortable. Make sure you replace your toothbrush or electric toothbrush heads every three to four months.
If grasping the dental floss, and moving it through your teeth is harder because of your arthritis, consider a floss holder. These floss holders allow you to place a spool of floss on a handle, and with one hand you can floss between each tooth.
The final step you can take as you age is to continue scheduling regular appointments with your dentist for dental cleanings and checkups. With a little care, your teeth will last a lifetime.
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