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How to brush and floss your teeth

Are you a scrubber? Do your gums bleed when you floss?  

If you suspect you’re cleaning your teeth incorrectly (yes, there is a ‘wrong’ way!), keep reading to learn how to ace your next dentist visit. 

Good dental hygiene helps you and your family avoid bad breath, cavities (holes) and health complications including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and chest infections. 

On average, around 70,000 Australians are admitted to hospital each year for potentially preventable dental health problems.  

And, in recent times, being in and out of lockdown has meant that even more of us are postponing dental appointments for everything except emergency care. 

The good news? Dental problems are mostly preventable with the right at-home care. So, follow our expert tips to avoid visiting the dentist for anything other than a routine checkup and clean. 

Follow our 6 top tips for a tip-top smile: 

  1. Brush twice a day. Hail, rain, or shine. And for no less than two minutes. Don’t forget your tongue and the roof of your mouth—those areas are dust-traps for unhealthy bacteria build-up, and bacteria can feed on sugar in the food and drink you consume and eventually lead to tooth decay. 
  2. Floss before your brush. Even toothbrushes have their limitations; they can’t reach the gaps in between your teeth. That’s why you need dental floss. Don’t freak if you see a bit of blood in your spit when you first start flossing—that’s just a sign you need to do it more often.
  3. Feed your teeth. To stay in good-chomping shape, your teeth need protein and vitamins and minerals. Incorporate fruits, nuts, chicken and vegetables into your diet. And don’t forget cheese – it can make your salivary glands produce more saliva which helps remove bad bacteria from your mouth.
  4. Drink the good stuff. What you drink is super important when it comes to oral health, and tap water works best. It really does. Tap water strengthens your teeth and keeps your mouth clean. Milk is good too because it contains calcium and protects tooth enamel. You should try to avoid fizzy and sugary drinks and alcohol.
  5. Replace your toothbrush. Bacteria can build up on brushes and bristles can get tatty and become less effective at cleaning your teeth. As a rule, get a new toothbrush every three to four months or as soon as the bristles start to wear. Look for a soft brush as they’re more flexible and can get into the trickier-to-reach spots in your mouth.
  6. Master your brushing technique. You can do a lot of damage to your mouth by brushing your teeth incorrectly. The common mistake people make? Brushing too hard and fast, thinking that’s the trick to getting the gunk off. Unfortunately, all that scrubbing only recedes your gum line, damages tooth enamel and exposes sensitive parts of your teeth.  

What happens if you don’t brush and floss every day?  

Dental plaque happens! Plaque is a sticky film that forms between your teeth and along your gum line when saliva, food and fluids combine. Plaque build up is the culprit for many oral health problems, and it starts forming 4-12 hours after you finish brushing and flossing.  

Read on to discover the ideal method for brushing and flossing. 

How to brush your teeth 

To get started you’ll need: 

  • A soft, small toothbrush. (Hard ones can damage teeth and gums.) 
  • One pea-sized glob of toothpaste containing fluoride  

The following steps are recommended by the Australian Dental Association:

  1. Tilt your brush at a 45-degree angle (so the bristles can clean your gums too) and brush gently, in circles. If you use an electric toothbrush, hold it on each tooth for 3 seconds. 
  2. Segment your teeth into sections – inner, outside, and top chewing surface. Clean the inside of your front teeth properly by brushing in an up and down motion. 
  3. Brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes – that’s the time it takes a proper clean. 
  4. Finish by brushing your tongue and the top of your mouth to remove excess bacteria
  5. Spit but don’t rinse your toothpaste out so it can keep working longer.

How to floss 

You should floss at least once a day – morning or night – for at least two minutes.  

To get started:

  1. Wind about 45 cm of floss around your middle fingers and rest it across your thumbs and index fingers.

    Alternatively, a floss holder (pictured), which you can pick up from a pharmacy or supermarket, can make things much easier.


  2. Use a gentle up-and-down motion that goes down one side of the tooth, just under the little collar of gum and then back up the other side. 
  3. Make sure you use a scraping action instead of just sticking the floss between your teeth.

Still not sure if you’re flossing the right way? Ask your dentist to show you how. 

When to see the dentist 

Once you’ve mastered your at-home oral health care routine, it’s still important to visit the dental clinic for a checkup.  Your dental professional will not only check your teeth but everything inside your mouth. Earlier detected dental issues are always easier to treat, so see your dental professional regularly.  

AcesssHC’s dental team provides a wide range of dental services at our Ashburton site.  Call 03 9810 3000 to find out if you’re eligible for low cost or no cost dental care. If you have private health insurance, you can also claim health insurance rebates on site (subject to individual cover).  

Suggested reading: Tips for looking after kids teeth 

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After-hours contacts

For after-hours assistance regarding AccessHC property and security call 0466 501 902.

For after-hours medical care call 132660.

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