Suppose I left a hamburger sitting on the kitchen counter for 3 or 4 days and suppose that the kitchen stayed at 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Would anyone be tempted to eat it? Just imagine the bacteria and maybe some mold growing on the hamburger. Sound yummie??
In my 32 years looking in children’s mouths, I have been shocked many times to see food stuck to the teeth. It was obvious that a toothbrush had not touched their teeth for many days. Even in some adults I’ve seen meat packed in between the back teeth that had been there so long that there was a terrible odor.
When looking at food that was attached to a tooth (plaque) under a microscope, a huge amount of bacteria is usually found. This bacteria is busy producing substances that damage the tooth. And what about the food that breaks loose from the tooth after a few days and goes into the body? It is not pleasant to think of that old rotten food being ingested by the body. This brings me to my topic for today – the importance of tooth brushing and flossing our teeth and gums. My example so far has related just to teeth, but it applies as much or maybe more to the gums. The pockets in the gum line around our teeth also harbor a lot of bacteria, and this bacteria has access to our blood system which has a direct effect on our physical health.
When should we brush and floss our teeth and gums?
The best answer is that we should brush and floss every time we eat, but in practicality we should at least 3-4 times per day. This way the colonies of bacteria won’t have a very good chance of growing on our teeth and gums. As I think about the bacteria crawling around my teeth and gums, it makes me want to go floss and brush right now!
How should we brush and floss?
Your dentist or their hygienist is the best person to answer this question. They are familiar with the areas that you might currently be missing or areas where you tend to collect plaque due to the shape or arrangement of your teeth. But always remember that it takes time to brush. I have timed many people while they were brushing and was surprised that so many thought they could clean their teeth in such a short time. Spend at least two minutes brushing. Visualize every surface of every tooth getting a good scrub with the toothbrush.
Happy teeth and gums make happy children!