It’s statistically proven that it can take upwards of 21 days to create habitual behaviors; however, it can take far less time to break such behaviors.
Maintaining a routine for proper dental care may be a challenge. Strange, isn’t it? For most, regular dental care is something that has been ingrained in us since childhood. “Don’t forget to floss!” “Have you brushed your teeth today?” I’m sure we can all recall our parents or others saying something along those lines to us at some point in our lives.
So with those early constant reminders, why do regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits fall by the wayside all too often? While I may have a few theories and everyone has their individual reasons, I’d like to take a moment today to be another reminding force in your life to pay attention to your teeth and mouth. We will discuss some proper brushing and flossing techniques to try as well as some recommendations on frequency and when to see your dentist and hygienist.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that adults brush twice a day for two minutes each time. That boils down to about one minute for top teeth and another for the bottom teeth. Young children have fewer teeth, comparatively, and it’s recommended that they brush for 30 seconds on top and 30 seconds on the bottom.
Slowing down and taking your time can greatly increase your brushing efficacy, so following the one minute and two minute rule is important. Some ways to keep track of the time include making use of self-timing electric toothbrushes, phone apps, or egg timers. Phone apps are especially fun for young children.
There is also a proper technique for brushing. If no one has ever specifically taught you how to brush, please ask for a demonstration at your next dental appointment. There is a technique called modified bass sulcus that has been studied and approved by the ADA as the recommended method and is taught in dental schools and dental hygiene schools. I strongly encourage you to watch YouTube videos of this technique, as they are most helpful. If you are already using a power toothbrush, then all you have to do is make sure that you are angling the bristles at a 45-degree angle towards your gums and the toothbrush will do the rest.
This seems to be one of the hardest dental habits, but it can also be the hardest habit to break once you’ve adopted it.
The ADA recommends flossing once daily to avoid dental disease, such as decay and gum/bone disease. It does not matter what time of day you do this or if it is before or after brushing, just pick a time that fits your schedule and work it in.
When flossing, make sure that you are wrapping the floss in a “C” shape around each tooth and flossing just a little below the gum line. There are also great YouTube videos out there for flossing.
There are many reasons that people will use to not go to the dentist: fear and affordability are usually among the top reasons. When you follow the recommendations for frequency of dental visits, however, the cheaper and less intimidating these visits can be.
I use the analogy of getting regular maintenance on your car. If you have your car’s oil changed and serviced as recommended, the likeliness of costly repairs are lowered. The ADA recommends having dental hygiene visits (cleanings) at least once every 6 months with an exam by the dentist incorporated into those visits, and X-rays every year to three years depending on type and individual need.
Prevention of dental diseases is, naturally, the goal of both providers and patients, and by adopting these recommendations you are well on your way to following a preventative model for dental care.
Chelsea Brooks is a dental hygienist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.