Brushing teeth is often not enough to keep decay at bay

( dpa ) - Cleaning teeth is usually a hurried affair. Most people grab a brush, squeeze a blob of toothpaste on the bristles and scour away for a few minutes.

This is unfortunately not sufficient to avoid tooth decay and the painful remedial treatment that goes with it. More thorough methods are called for.

"Daily teeth care should involve the use of a brush and dental floss," said dentist Ilona Kronfeld, who works for the Philipp-Pfaff- Research Institute near Berlin.

Brushes are still the instruments of choice when it comes to removing the food particles from the teeth which can lead to a build- up of the potentially-harmful bio-film known as plaque. If not regularly removed, plaque can lead to dental cavities (caries).

Most people rely on a standard hand-held toothbrush but dental technician Stefan Zimmer of the University Clinic in Dusseldorf advises against this.

"The only advantage of these toothbrushes is that they are cheap to buy and do not make any noise", he said. According to Zimmer, an electric toothbrush is far superior.

Electric toothbrushes come in two sorts, both of which tend to cost about the same. There are ones which use rotating brush heads or ones with ultra-sonic vibration which is supposed to have a secondary cleaning effect.

The latter are designed to be held at a 45-degree angle against the gums and moved along, whereas the circular brushes are used to clean each tooth individually - and that calls for more practice.

Cleaning between the teeth is vital too and Zimmer laments that not enough people regularly use dental floss. Among those who do so, many use the wrong technique.

Simply running the floss back and forth between the teeth will not do. The aim is to hold the floss against a tooth and move it up and away from the gum in a gentle scraping motion.

Both waxed and unwaxed floss are suitable, Zimmer says. "Both make a good job of cleaning," according to the dental expert who seeks to allay fears that floss will pull out fillings. "That will only happen if the fillings have been badly done in the first place."

For people who find dental floss too much of a handful there are so-called interdental brushes which come colour-coded in various sizes. These are particularly suitable for older people since the gaps between the teeth generally increase with age and the brushes are easily to use than dental floss, dentist Kronfeld said.

There are tapered and cylindrical brushes for different applications but common to all is the method of use. The brushes should be simply pushed gently back and forth between the tooth and gumline.

Mouthwashes and gels can be useful too and the dentist might recommend an antibacterial mouthwash to help control plaque and reduce inflamed or diseased gums. Mouthwashes and toothpaste containing fluoride also help to minimize tooth decay.

Teeth should be cleaned at least twice a day. "A good idea is to set aside a particular time of the day so that cleaning your teeth becomes a routine matter," dentist Ilona Kronfeld said. The amount of time spent attending to the teeth may vary but it must be sufficient to remove plaque, the bio-film on the teeth which contains harmful bacteria. The toothpaste used should have a pleasant taste. "Ideally you will really look forward to using it," Kronfeld said.

Internet: There are several good websites on the most effective best way to clean your teeth. One of them can be found at: http://www.dentalhealth.org.uk

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