Keeping up your best dental hygiene might not be on the forefront of your mind during the coronavirus pandemic.
But you can bet a bottle of mouthwash that will quickly change if you suddenly develop agonising tooth ache and can’t get an appointment to see your dentist thanks to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So now seems like a pretty good time to up our tooth brushing game, because not only can good dental hygiene help reduce the spread of the virus, most of us haven’t switched up our teeth cleaning habits since childhood.
“Being in lockdown is not only a good time to pick up an old hobby, read more or learn a new skill, but will also allow you to make up for time missed on your self-care and oral hygiene,” explains Dr Sunny Sihra, Dentist and owner of the SimplyTeeth Clinic.
“Your oral health is imperative yet many don’t take it as seriously as they should and tend to rush their routines of a morning and evening, not giving any thought to what their actually doing.
“It’s also very important right now as there is limited dental activity so to avoid toothaches and gum issues this should be done regularly.
“Now you have plenty of time for oral hygiene take the time to get to know your mouth and teeth and to develop a better dental routine.”
So what do we need to do to ensure we’re our tooth brushing is best practice?
Generally speaking, dentists’ advice is to keep up a routine of brushing teeth twice daily and flossing to prevent tooth decay.
“For the optimum clean, brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes using a small headed brush with medium firm bristles,” advises James Goolnik, dentist and founder of the Bow Lane Dental Group.
“Most people do not brush correctly, probably because we were never taught so we just copy our parents or copy what we see on the screen!
“The purpose of tooth brushing is to remove the majority of the food and bacteria around your teeth without damaging your teeth or gums,” he adds.
Don’t be tempted to speed brush
Despite many of us WFH right now, tooth brushing is still slipping down the to-do list. “For most, rush brushing in the morning is a huge problem, with many brushing their teeth in the shower or on the go and for around only 20 seconds,” Dr Sihra explains.
“This really isn’t good enough and over time it will show through your smile and you could develop potential dental conditions such as cavities or gum disease.
Dr Sihra recommends developing a routine with your brushing. “Start on the bottom row and clean from the front and round to the back, then do the same on the top row, this will ensure you are covering all areas,” he advises.
Before or after breakfast brushing?
Goolnik says the ideal time to brush our teeth is 30 minutes after breakfast.
“This allows time for any acids to be neutralised and you to remove food debris before you start your day,” he explains.
“You should place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums,” he adds. “Gently move the brush back and forth in short strokes (covering 1-2 teeth at a time maximum).”
Electric Vs Manual
While the temptation might be to buy an all-singing, all-dancing electric toothbrush, Goolnik says you can do just as good a job with a manual brush but make sure you choose a brush head that is not too big; a medium size or size 35 is ideal for most adults.
“You should place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Gently move the brush back and forth in short strokes (covering 1-2 teeth at a time maximum),” he says.
If you prefer an electric toothbrush, he recommends choosing one with a small head and crucially a timer so you ensure you brush for the full two minutes.
“Remember scrubbing away with your electric toothbrush is not necessary, instead it is simply a matter of holding it in place for a few seconds before moving along to the next tooth,” he adds.
To mouthwash or not to mouthwash?
Dr Sihra advises using a mouthwash which you can use twice daily after brushing, as well as dental floss to use throughout the day after snacking.
“You can use your toothbrush to clean your tongue, however if you are using mouthwash this should be sufficient,” he adds.
Tooth brushing during a pandemic
According to Goolnik there are some extra hygiene precautions we should be taking right now including separating each toothbrush or oral hygiene aid for each member of the family whilst the pandemic is occurring.
“It is REALLY important that if you become ill, once you start to recover please THROW OUT all of these items and get new ones,” he says. “The virus can linger on your brush and you could slow down your recovery by re-infecting yourself.”