brush your teeth
August 9, 2014

What’s The Best Way To Brush Your Teeth?

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

How do you brush your teeth? Do you use the side to side motion, or the small circles motion? Do you angle your toothbrush, or use it straight up and down? According to a new study from University College London (UCL), the advice most of us have received on how we should brush our teeth is "unacceptably inconsistent."

The study analyzed brushing advise given by dental associations in ten countries, toothpaste and toothbrush companies, and in dental textbooks. The results, published in the British Dental Journal, revealed a wide range of recommendations addressing what brushing method to use, how often to brush and how long one should brush.

The research team was surprised to find no clear consensus in the various sources. Even more worrisome was the lack of agreement between dental association advice and dental textbooks.

"The public needs to have sound information on the best method to brush their teeth," said Aubrey Sheiham, Emeritus Professor of Dental Public Health (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health), in a recent statement. "If people hear one thing from a dental association, another from a toothbrush company and something else from their dentist, no wonder they are confused about how to brush. In this study we found an unacceptably inconsistent array of advice from different sources."

"Dental associations need to be consistent about what method to recommend, based on how effective the method is. Most worryingly, the methods recommended by dental associations are not the same as the best ones mentioned in dental textbooks. There is no evidence to suggest that complicated techniques are any better than a simple gentle scrub."

A comparison of the various sources showed that the most commonly recommended technique involved gently jiggling the brush back and forth to shake loose any food particles, plaque and bacteria. The authors caution that no large scale studies have ever demonstrated the efficiency of this method over basic scrubbing.

"Brush gently with a simple horizontal scrubbing motion, with the brush at a forty-five degree angle to get to the dental plaque," Professor Sheiham advises. "To avoid brushing too hard, hold the brush with a pencil grip rather than a fist. This simple method is perfectly effective at keeping your gums healthy."

"There is little point in brushing after eating sweets or sugary drinks to prevent tooth decay. It takes bacteria from food about two minutes to start producing acid, so if you brush your teeth a few minutes after eating sugary foods, the acid will have damaged the enamel."

The researchers say that the wealth of conflicting messages they found highlights the need for research into the most effective brushing method. In "The Scientific Basis of Dental Health Education," the expert advice is to use a simple scrubbing method because it is easy to learn and there is no evidence to suggest a need for a more complicated technique.

"The wide range of recommendations we found is likely due to the lack of strong evidence suggesting that one method is conclusively better than another," says Dr John Wainwright, who carried out the study at UCL and is now a practicing dentist. "I advise my patients to focus their brushing on areas where plaque is most likely to collect – the biting surfaces and where the teeth and gums meet – and to use a gentle scrubbing motion. All too frequently I am asked why the method I am describing differs from how previous dentists have taught them in the past.

"What I feel we need is better research into what the easiest to learn, most effective and safest way to brush is. The current situation where not just individual dentists, but different dental organizations worldwide are all issuing different brushing guidelines isn't just confusing – it's undermining faith and trust in the profession as a whole. For something most people do twice a day, you would expect dentists to send a clearer, more unified message to their patients on how to brush their teeth."