FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, HUMANS DID NOT BRUSH THEIR TEETH.
WHY DO WE BRUSH THEM NOW?
We all know we need to brush our teeth to keep them healthy and white.
It’s true that the first thing most people do when they wake up in the morning is brush their teeth. For most of us, brushing our teeth is a mere habit which we simply take for granted. We were taught to do it so we do. But have you ever wondered how toothbrushing became a habit?
The development of the first toothbrush probably dates back to around 3000BC, when the first toothbrush was fabricated by the Babylonians and Egyptians by using frayed twigs. Around 1600 BC, the Chinese prepared “chew sticks” that were made from the twigs of aromatic trees for freshening their breaths.
According to the Smithsonian institute Segrave notes that an 1870 Sozodont ad promised that “Men go wild for splendid teeth.” However, by the 1920s, the American Dental Association was refuting the cosmetic claims made by dentifrice manufacturers, and denouncing the destructive abrasives and harmful whitening agents used in many products.
During the 1910s-1920s, some employers participated in industrial dental hygiene programs, where they brought in dentists to examine and clean the teeth of factory workers. Employers enforced dental hygiene to increase productivity as workers would not miss work due to tooth infections.
However, it took a war to change Americans’ tooth brushing habits. In an attempt to keep soldiers healthy and fighting during World War II, they were required to brush their teeth as part of their daily hygiene practices. Returning home they brought their new oral hygiene habits with them.
The link between oral hygiene and personal appearance was heavily emphasized in toothpaste marketing. Advertisements for dentifrices (tooth polish) frequently claimed their products would make users more attractive by whitening and brightening their teeth and sweetening their breath.
During the mid-1940s, as dental professionals raised public awareness of the cause, associated health problems, and possible prevention of tooth decay, the marketing of oral hygiene products changed.
Toothpaste had overtaken tooth powder as the more popular form of dentifrice; it claimed around 75% of the American market in 1949. Rather than making cosmetic claims, toothpaste marketing began to focus on a brand’s ability to prevent the acid-producing bacteria that leads to tooth decay. Toothpastes and powders containing ammonia, chlorophyll, and penicillin were introduced, all claiming to stop tooth decay and prevent bad breath.
Most people use toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss to clean their teeth, but their use is not universal. Many indigenous groups, as well as people in developing countries, use traditional techniques to clean their teeth. Some techniques are more effective than others.
What was done when there wasn’t toothbrushes and toothpaste?
History tells us that most ancient people did not have any cavities or dental problems, even though they never brushed their teeth! What was so special about them that they didn’t need to brush their teeth? There are several explanations for their immunity against oral health problems:
Back in the day, before the industrial revolution, there was no processed food, fast-food or take-out. The diet in those times consisted of all natural and unprocessed foods, such as wheat, rice, vegetables and fruits. These natural and pure foods were quite safe since they did not contain any preservatives or chemicals, and they contained nutrients and vitamins that made the teeth stronger and more resistant against cavities and other dental infections. Ancient people were overall very healthy.
The ancient peoples’ diet consisted of a large part of fibrous foods. Fibrous foods are great for digestion, but also help to keep our teeth healthy and clean. They do this by aiding in flushing away food debris from the surface of the teeth. If food debris is quickly removed from the tooth’s surface, dental plaque is less likely to accumulate. Essentially, these foods acted as a toothbrush to keep their teeth clean.
Nutrient Rich Diet
These days the majority of Americans’ diets are deficient in many vitamins and minerals, and there is sugar in almost everything, which could be a reason for the occurrence of dental infections. This results in weak teeth that are ill-equipped when it comes to resisting tooth decay. This was not a problem in the previous days, as the diet used to be pure, wholesome and balanced.
American oral hygiene practices began to evolve in the early twentieth century as government and health agencies educated Americans, particularly school children, about the importance of oral hygiene. Dentists and public health councils argued that a lack of dental hygiene led to other diseases of the body, and that these illnesses kept adults out of work and children away from school. They hoped that by teaching school children good tooth brushing habits the children’s new habits would influence other family members.
Why is tooth brushing so important?
How You Can Protect Your Teeth From Infections and Cavities?
Brushing and Flossing — Brushing your teeth removes the layer of dental plaque that adheres to your teeth and accumulates from eating all day. Brushing away the plaque at least twice a day protects your teeth from harmful bacteria inside the plaque. Similarly, flossing between your teeth will ensure that each and every corner is stripped of harmful plaque. You are missing 35% of your tooth surface by not flossing.
Brushing is an important way to keep your teeth and gums clean, healthy and free from oral disease. The direct benefit of brushing is to remove oral plaque, and prevent it from reforming on your teeth and along the gum line. Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay, cavities and gum disease, so it’s important to brush thoroughly twice daily. Plaque removal is so essential that not brushing your teeth for several days is usually enough time for the onset of more serious oral conditions.
Five Factors to consider when choosing a Toothbrush
1) Toothbrush Head
For most people we have found that small toothbrush heads are generally better and more efficient at cleaning teeth than large ones. The reason for this is that small toothbrush heads enable the user to reach all areas of the mouth, especially the sides of molars. Sometimes a child sized toothbrush head is better for an adult. The size all depends on the individual’s mouth.
It has been found that the shape of the toothbrush head has no significant effect on their efficiency. It is how you use it that is important.
We recommend that the toothbrush heads are replaced every 3 months or sooner if they show wear and tear or you have been sick.
2) Toothbrush Bristles or filaments
We find that most patients think the harder the bristles are the better they are for brushing their teeth. This is not true. Hard bristles can often cause damage/are abrasive to teeth and gums, depending on your technique and especially if you are an aggressive brusher. We would recommend either medium or soft bristles. There are so many options available it really comes down to personal preference.
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3) Power or Electric
The advertising agencies want us to believe that electric toothbrushes are always better than manual toothbrushes. While I do agree that electric toothbrushes are generally more efficient than a manual brush.
There are situations where we would recommend a manual toothbrush over an electric toothbrush.
So we would not give a blanket recommendation for one. You can get roughly 300 strokes per minute with a manual toothbrush and 33,000 with an electric. I love the BURST Toothbrush.
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4) Brushing Technique
We have found that the correct brushing technique is as important, if not even more important than the type of toothbrush you choose to use.
When we are little we are taught to brush back and forth because it is easier. However it is better to angle it toward the gum line so the bristles can sweep below the gums to disrupt the bacteria and massage the gums. We usually don’t go back and say now that you are older, start brushing in a circular motion.
When you use a manual toothbrush you have to do the motion. When you switch to an electric brush it is made to do the motion for you. So you don’t do the same motion you only need to angle it toward the gums and hold it for 3-5 seconds then slide it to the next two teeth.
How to brush your child’s teeth
Young children aren’t able to brush their own teeth well enough so they need an adult to do it for them.
Start by finding a comfortable position. This could be with your child sitting on your lap facing away from you with their head resting against your body while you cup their chin with one hand.
- Brush the teeth and along the gum line to clean every tooth thoroughly (about two minutes is a good guide).
- Brush gently in small circles. Brush along the inside surfaces and the outside surfaces.
- Brush back and forth on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
- After brushing, ask your child to spit out toothpaste, and not to rinse with water. The small amount of toothpaste remaining keeps protecting teeth.
If using an electric toothbrush, read the instructions before you begin. Guide the brush to your child’s teeth first, then switch it on. Move the head slowly from tooth to tooth, including brushing along the gum line (where the gum and tooth meet). Do not press too hard or scrub, let the brush do the work.
You may also want to start using products such as dental floss with your child to make cleaning between teeth a good habit from a young age. Ask your oral health professional for advice.
Teaching your child to brush their teeth
Encourage children to take part in toothbrushing as they get older. At around age two or three, help them develop the skill by letting them have a go first before you follow up to make sure all surfaces have been cleaned.
At around the age of eight years, children have developed the fine motor skills needed for tooth brushing. However, supervision is often needed past this age until you are sure they can do it well by themselves.
Tips for brushing children’s teeth
Not all children will enjoy toothbrushing at first, but eventually most come to understand it as something we do every day as part of keeping our bodies healthy.
Some tips to encourage tooth brushing are:
- Make it fun! Sing a song, make silly noises, play a children’s toothbrushing video or app – anything that will make the time enjoyable.
- Children like to copy others, so ask other family members to show children how they brush.
- There are many dental-themed story books that can be used to help teach young children about brushing teeth.
- Try using two toothbrushes. One for them to hold and use and one for you to brush properly. Other children respond to ‘your turn, my turn’, where the child brushes first then the parent brushes.
- If your child doesn’t like the taste of toothpaste, try brushing without toothpaste first. Then use a small amount of children’s low fluoride toothpaste to get them used to the flavor. There are also toothpastes with fruity flavours or milder flavors which kids may like more.
- If you are not having any success in the bathroom, try another location in the house.
- For older children, try a reward system. For example, mark the number of times their teeth are cleaned twice a day on a calendar and offer a reward when they reach a goal.
There are some people who have difficulty with dexterity. In these situations we would definitely recommend electric toothbrushes and water flossers.
We cannot stress enough that no toothbrush replaces flossing or the use of interdental brushes. As much as the companies may want to convince you that their toothbrushes do everything…. From our experience they do not contribute significantly to interdental cleaning.
There is no one universal toothbrush that is good for everyone, because everyone is different. How many teeth are there, are your gums healthy or bleeding, what is your dexterity, and what are your personal preferences?
- Don’t Brush Immediately After Eating
Wait at least 30 minutes after you’ve eaten to brush your teeth. When you eat, bacteria produce acid that temporarily weakens the enamel. Brushing too soon after eating, especially acidic foods, can damage the enamel in its weakened state. After eating, it’s best to rinse your mouth out with water or chew sugarless gum to increase saliva production. These measures will help to wash away bacteria without damaging your teeth! When the mouth pH drops below 6.5 is when you are susceptible to cavities if you can keep the pH 7.0 or above you will set yourself up for success
- Don’t Ignore The Rest Of Your Mouth
Especially your tongue! Did you know that 90 percent of bad breath is due to a dirty tongue? That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly brush the tongue or use a tongue scraper.
What you do everyday has an effect on the health and beauty of your smile. We hope these little tips will make a big difference in your oral hygiene routine!