Why biting your toothbrush can help clean difficult areas
Statement of problem Nearly everybody gets a hard rocky material called calculus (or tartar) forming at the back of the lower front teeth as a result of leaving small amounts of plaque behind. The saliva that washes over this area comes from under the tongue and it is rich in calcium phosphate which converts soft plaque into hard rock like calculus over a period of a few months. Any plaque left in this area almost certainly means you are going to get hard rocky material forming there …material that you can’t remove with a toothbrush. Once it is converted into the rocky material you have to have it professionally scaled away by your dentist or hygienist. To some extent it is inevitable that we all will get some of this, but you can minimise it by more meticulous brushing in this area. However, it is not an easy area to get at, and it is an awkward hand/wrist movement , so try this tip for improved brushing effectiveness: Proposed solution for above problem Instead of trying to use your wrist to push the brush down into those difficult curved areas behind the front teeth, try using the jaw closing muscles. Hold the brush so that the bristles are aligned vertically in the long axis of the tooth and simply bite down onto and into the brush. This will cause the bristles to slide down the back of the front teeth and go into the crevices between the teeth and dig down in the sulcus (or crevice) next to the gum. It is surprisingly easy and effective. Bite up and down a few times. The same technique works for top teeth and bottom teeth, however the results on the bottom teeth tend to be more dramatic because it is far more prone to the formation of calculus. Always use a soft brush -not one marked medium or hard – these harder bristles may push the gum back a bit. It’s not really a big problem if the gum does shrink back a millimetre or two for any reason, so don’t be overly concerned, but ask your dentist or hygienist to keep an eye on your gum at the back and to confirm that you are cleaning it better and not causing any excessive pushing back of the gum. The instructions on most toothbrushes that tell children “do not bite the brush�?. Those instructions refer more to chewing the brush on molars and destroying the bristles by bending them over and crushing them, which ruins the toothbrush. What we are advocating here is keeping the bristles straight and using the biting power to drive them down in a controlled way into the crevices that are very hard to get. The patients I have told this technique to sometimes commented on how useful it was, so it is presented here for the benefit of a wider audience.