Teeth are coated with a thin protective layer of enamel to protect the vulnerable inside from damage. Enamel is tough and, in fact it is the hardest substance in the human body, able to withstand a lifetime of biting, crunching and chewing, provided you give it proper dental care.
Bacteria forms in the mouth after eating and feast on the sugars that are formed from starchy and sweet foods. These sugars form acids that are capable of destroying the tough enamel outer layer of the teeth and cause harmful diseases such as gingivitis. Erosion from acids can literally shrink the size of the teeth, causing the gums to recede.
Although teeth appear to be white, it is the underlying layer of dentin that causes teeth to appear darker or lighter. Enamel is a semi-translucent substance which changes over time as a result of stains from tea, coffee, cigarettes and wine which can make teeth look yellow, dingy and grey.
How long should you brush your teeth for?
Teeth should be brushed for at least two minutes at a time, but three minutes is better. A good tip is to use an egg timer when brushing your teeth. Divide your mouth into four areas and spend an equal time brushing in each area.
For example, brush the teeth in the upper left half of the mouth for 30 seconds and move on to the upper right half for the next 30 seconds. Repeat with the bottom half of the mouth. Some electric toothbrush brands have built-in timers.
How many times a day should you brush your teeth?
It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day, but it is better to brush after each meal. Too much time between brushing causes plaque to build up increasing the risk of gum inflammation and tooth decay.
Avoid brush your teeth directly after a meal
Avoid brushing your teeth for the first twenty minutes after eating as the tooth enamel is softened by acid in the food. Excessive and harsh brushing will erode the enamel faster and waiting for a few minutes will ensure that most of the food has been washed away by saliva.
Correct brushing technique is important
It is just as important to use the correct method when brushing teeth as the time spent brushing. Gentle brushing is best as vigorously brushing your teeth will irritate the gums and erode the enamel.
Long horizontal strokes, close to the gum line, cause abrasions. Use a 45 degree angle with short circular strokes and a gentle vibration. Brush strokes should be aimed vertically up and down and not across the teeth and horizontal. Ensure that all surfaces are covered, including inner surfaces and don’t forget to clean your tongue.