Brushing teeth and oral hygiene practices

Healthy Happy Smile

Why oral hygiene is so important.

Brushing Teeth and Oral Hygiene Practices why are they so important. Oral hygiene is all about keeping your mouth clean and is integral to your overall health.

It is mainly about your teeth and gums [gingivae], but it includes your tongue and the skin lining of your mouth [mucosa]

Germs [bacteria] grow in your mouth and cleaning your teeth, gums, and tongue is really keeping the number of germs in check – stopping them from growing too thick like weeds. The germs [bacteria] grow together as a soft creamy white slime called plaque.

Poor oral hygiene practices can lead to oral health diseases like cavities (caries) and gum disease (periodontitis). Poor oral health can be a contributing factor to a number of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, lung infections, diabetes, and oral cancers, just to name a few.

Having good oral hygiene is also about your lifestyle choices and is more than just brushing your teeth twice a day and that is a great beginning. Toothbrushing does not get between your teeth, flossing, interdental brushes, and toothpicks help.

Just as important is maintaining a healthy balanced diet and finally, regular check-ups with your dentist.

Read ’11 Oral Health Messages’ For more information.

How to best brush your teeth.

The Germs [bacteria] that cause dental decay [caries] and gum disease [gingivitis and periodontitis] keep growing 24/7. To suppress their rapid growth we need to brush our teeth twice a day. Once in the morning preferably after breakfast, and once at night before bed.

Brushing technique is a skill that is important and can be taught. It will be different for children and adults.  Its best reviewed when you visit for a check-up, as it is a very practical skill that needs hands-on support and like many physical skills unconscious bad habits can do more damage to the teeth and gums or be ineffective in removing the growing bugs[bacterial white slimes called biofilms].

I generally recommend thirty seconds for children under 5 years old, a minute for kids between the ages of 5 and 12, and 2 minutes for everyone else.

I will post some images and videos to help you understand the basics of positioning and moving the brush. The techniques are different for children and adults, as well as manual and electric brushes.

For more information about how to brush your teeth I have compiled a few resources for your benefit.

‘Brushing Teeth’ |

‘Are you brushing your teeth too hard’ | (ABC Everyday: Daniel Mee) updated Jan 2020 (TheHealthy: Rachel Grumman Bender) updated Nov 2020

YouTube player
YouTube player

Choosing the right toothpaste.

There are many toothpaste brands on the market and choosing the right one is important. Be sure to use a brand that includes fluoride, it is an essential ingredient helping to protect the teeth from sugar and acids. It can also assist to remineralise teeth helping to heal early decay. If you do have signs of decay or gum disease, your dentist may recommend a specific toothpaste suited to your needs.

Children under the age of 18 months do not need toothpaste, as it will wear away the enamel coating growing on their baby teeth.

Between the ages of 18 months and six years, use a toothpaste designed for children as they contain less fluoride and have more palatable flavours compared to adult toothpastes.

Children Six years and older should use adult toothpaste.

Commercial Brands

I am not going to be biased between the two main providers of tooth care products in Australia. Both Colgate and Oral B have great websites and provide consistent written instructions as well as detailed descriptions of their products. If you are ever unsure of an oral health product look for the ADA’s seal of approval.

A healthy balanced diet.

A healthy balanced diet is an important factor for maintaining a healthy mouth. The inside of your mouth behaves like an ecosystem relying on a biodiversity of bacteria to help protect the body from pathogens. Over indulging in foods that are high in sugar, acids and refined carbohydrates [think for example about fluoride based products made or modified by humans e.g. cakes and biscuits and dried fruits] can upset this balance allowing for the growth of bad bacteria that can cause decay and other oral health concerns. Be mindful of what and how often you eat, many foods that are not obviously sweets can still contain high levels of sugars and acids and snacking too often can effect saliva production, which is an essential part of neutralising the acids in your mouth.

The importance of Cleaning between your teeth (interdental cleaning).

Thirty percent of your teeth surface that needs to be cleaned is in-between your teeth. Interdental cleaning most commonly known as flossing, is one of the most important practices for maintaining a healthy mouth. Toothbrushes reach seventy percent of the surface area but miss the narrow areas between the teeth. Flossing, toothpicks and a variety of interdental brushes have been created to suit every person. It is important to trial them to see what works for you and to get my help to make sure you have a good technique that is easy for you. This helps to minimize the risks of decay [dental caries] and gum disease [gingivitis and periodontitis] clean between your teeth at least once every day.

            Once again, like all hand skills, it can be easy and it really helps to get some coaching to make sure you have the right technique and eliminate the unknown bad habits that can be doing more harm than good.

Read ‘Cleaning Between Your Teeth The Fast Facts’ for more information on interdental cleaning.

Manual or electric toothbrush.

Electric toothbrushes simply outperform manual brushes for plaque control [germs, bugs bacteria, biofilms, soft white slimes growing on your teeth and gums]. They save you the micro moves needed to whisk off the sticky germs. The technique is still important and I recommend regular skill reviews. Having said that, plenty of people do a great job with a manual toothbrush and we tailor the support according to your skill level and needs.

When should I see my Dentist?

Preventative dentistry can reverse decay and gum disease as well as reduce the number of dental visits needed. Regular check-ups are important and recommended every 6 months.

It is simply cheaper in both financial costs and what I call biological benefit. Repairing something that has broken or damaged always costs more in pain, work, and long-term outcomes.

Dentists can detect early signs of tooth decay and gum disease. Discovering and responding to signs of both early will allow the dentist and patient to enact preventative dentistry instead of more costly restorative dental treatments.

For a more detailed insight into brushing teeth and oral health care visit, an evidence-based oral health information website established by the Australian Dental Association, the peak national body for dentists in Australia.

You can also get further information from a slightly different perspective and I base my article partly on the information provided at the University of Adelaide under the title

The National Oral Health Promotion Clearinghouse

Effective tooth brushing

Cleaning between the teeth

Nutrition and Oral Health


The National Oral Health Promotion Clearinghouse, 5 May 2008,

***This article contains general information only. It should not be relied on as advice in relation to your particular circumstances and issues, for which you should obtain specific, independent professional advice.

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