2 minutes is a lonnnnnnggggg time! A lot longer than we think. Have you ever tried timing yourself? Or gotten to the end of the timer on an electric toothbrush?
Morning routines can be action packed, with tooth brushing just another box to tick on route to the day ahead. Where does your oral health come on the list of morning priorities – does it matter?
We know oral health is strongly linked with a number of chronic health conditions e.g. heart disease and diabetes, and as we are very fond of reminding anyone and everyone you really haven’t overall health without oral health.
That doesn’t mean that you have to have perfectly straight white teeth! Your oral health is about being pain free, having a functional dentition – with natural or tooth replacements (dentures, crowns, bridges, implants) that enables you to eat, speak and look good. Oral health is important for health, nutrition, socialising, confidence and overall wellbeing. We know bleeding gums offer a route for bacteria to travel from the mouth to other parts of the body, while inflammation elsewhere in the body can be reflected in the mouth. Treatment for general health problems can take its toll on your mouth –e.g. medications that cause dry mouth and treatment for oral problems can have an impact elsewhere e.g. gum treatment can improve diabetic status. Many risk factors for poor overall health are also risk factors for poor oral health e.g. tobacco, alcohol, poor diet.
So back to rushing brushing this morning. Is your oral – and overall – health worth 2 minutes of your valuable time in the morning and before bedtime? It’s maybe easier to spend time last thing at night, but more challenging to stay ‘put’ in front of the bathroom mirror with your toothbrush when your head is screaming – I’ve got x, y and z to do before 9am!
We’ve got a couple of suggestions to extend the morning brushing and calm your mind for the day ahead. Try mindful tooth brushing – yes, it’s a ‘thing’. When you brush your teeth it’s a great time to focus on the moment, on the here and now, feel the surface of the bristles reaching the gum crevice, concentrate on the sensation of the vibrations of the brush. Really ‘taste’ the flavour of the toothpaste and the texture as it changes from paste to foam in your mouth. Pay attention to the clean feeling as you move from tooth to tooth. You may even find you spend longer the recommended 2 minutes brushing! Not only do you feel the super clean feeling on your teeth, but you have also taken 2 minutes of ‘me time’ to prepare your headspace for the day ahead. Watch out for our guide to mindful tooth brushing coming soon.
That ‘not going to happen’ in your morning routine?
Don’t restrict yourself to the bathroom! Use a dry toothbrush with a pea sized blob of fluoride toothpaste, spread the toothpaste all around the tooth surfaces and off you go – brush on the move. This was the ‘norm’ for us when our children were small. Get up, give hubby a nudge, get toothbrush, load up with toothpaste and set off round the house. Wake the kids, let the dog out, put the kettle on, check that everything that should have been left out in the hall ‘to go’ was there etc.! All whilst brushing. It may not have been the ‘best’ brushing of the day, but purely by spending more time you will be doing a better job than restricting yourself to the bathroom when your brain is screaming your ‘to do’ list!
Still ‘ain’t going to happen’?
If all else fails give your teeth a quick swipe with your toothbrush – your mouth – and your friends will appreciate it! We often say you clean your teeth at night for your health and in the morning for your friends! The ‘swipe and go’ brush in the morning is only going to make an impact on your oral health IF and WHEN you make and take the time to do a ‘quality clean’ later every day.Many ‘swipe and go’ sessions do not a healthy smile make! The chances are you always start brushing in the same place. That ‘place’ might get a half decent job done over the course of the day, but the rest of your mouth? Largely, and regularly neglected! If you are ‘4 times a day’ type of person then start each clean in a different corner of your mouth. If it is 4 short bursts of tooth brushing during the day, why not do the bottom right in the morning, bottom left at lunchtime, top right in the afternoon and top left before bed? The chances are you may manage to break up the plaque biofilm everywhere during the course of each day.
Look out for bleeding when you are brushing. Healthy gums don’t bleed* when you clean between your teeth or brush. Bacteria in the plaque biofilm mature over time and irritate the gums leading to inflammation and bleeding. If you have plaque that has been lying undisturbed for a while –eg. You’ve missed brushing around the gum line or haven’t cleaned between/flossed for a bit, expect some bleeding because the gums are inflamed, but don’t stop! The only way to reduce the inflammation is breaking up the bacterial plaque biofilm. Tough love – spit out and keep going. You should notice less bleeding over a couple of weeks. If you are not seeing an improvement in spite of thorough daily tooth brushing and flossing/cleaning between teeth, contact your dental team for advice. *Smokers will not see as much bleeding – this is not because their gums are healthy, but because smoking masks this ‘early warning’ sign of gum problems – bleeding. It is really important if you smoke or use tobacco to see your dental team who will be able to assess your gum health accurately.
Oh – the morning rush!
The average time spent tooth brushing (anytime of the day) is 37 -45 SECONDS! A long way short of the recommended 2 minutes. Is your rushing affecting your brushing – and your oral health?
Make time for your smile – WHEN? HOW?
For oral health it is recommended to brush last thing at night and one other time every day. If you are struggling to spend 2 minutes twice a day, aim for quality and make one brushing brilliant – every day. This is better than 3 or 4 quick brushings when you most likely start in the same place every time – and miss the same places!
Break up the biofilm thoroughly and regularly. Clean between teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach with floss or interdental brushes and then brush all surfaces of every tooth and along the gumline. Watch what you are doing, get to feel where you are brushing and take the time necessary for oral health, which may be longer than 2 minutes. Clean between before brushing or at a different time of day to reach the 30- 40% of plaque biofilm your toothbrush can’t reach.
HOW to make sure you are spending enough time cleaning every surface of all teeth and along the gum line? Time yourself. Use your phone, smartwatch or even an egg timer! Try using a disclosing tablet to stain the plaque so you can really see where you need to clean – and time how long it takes you to clean.
Disclosing tablets/pastes aren’t just for kids – we can all improve our technique when we can see what we are trying to remove.
Place the toothbrush bristles towards the gum line and vibrate the bristles in small circular or side to side motions. (Electric toothbrush? Just hold the bristles in place and let the power do the work).
On the outside of the tooth – count to 5. Move to the inside of the tooth – count to 5, then onto the biting surface – count to 5. That’s about 1.5 seconds per surface. 3 surfaces of each tooth = 4.5 seconds per tooth. You can work out how many teeth you have and how long it should take to brush. If you have all 32 teeth – that’s just over 2 minutes.
Use a pea sized blob of fluoride toothpaste on a dry toothbrush with soft-medium bristles. Spit out after brushing but don’t rinse all the paste away – let the power of the ingredients work for longer.
To really ‘feel’ the clean try brushing with a totally dry brush – no toothpaste and clean as above. After cleaning a few teeth stop and run your tongue around the teeth and feel the clean. Then put toothpaste on and go round again. It’s the toothbrush bristles that break up the plaque biofilm. Think of the difference between standing under a shower covered in mud and taking a sponge and physically washing the mud off.
Our lives can be so ‘busy’ it can be hard to take the time to look after ourselves. You may think of your mouth and oral health as secondary to your overall health and wellbeing but think again. Your mouth is the front door to the rest of your body – what goes on inside can impact all parts of your health and wellbeing.
Make the time for your smile – you’re worth it.