Confusion over best method to brush teeth, study finds

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Advice on how people should brush their teeth is “unacceptably inconsistent”, experts have found.

Researchers looked at brushing advice given by dental associations across 10 countries, toothbrush and toothpaste companies and in dental textbooks.

Their study, published in the British Dental Journal, found differing recommendations on what method to use when brushing, how often to brush and how long people should brush for.

The experts from University College London (UCL) said there was a “worrying” lack of agreement on the right way to complete this essential everyday routine.

Dentists are increasingly focusing on preventing problems through education on diet and brushing.

Senior author Aubrey Sheiham, emeritus professor of dental public health at UCL, said: “The public needs to have sound information on the best method to brush their teeth.

“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.”

Giving advice on teeth brushing, Prof Sheiham said: “Brush gently with a simple horizontal scrubbing motion, with the brush at a forty-five degree angle to get to the dental plaque.

“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.”

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