1 Use soft-bristled toothbrushes: When buying a toothbrush, choose one with soft bristles.
"When you brush your teeth, remember that you are also brushing soft gums," said Dr Edwin Heng, a periodontist at Specialist Dental Group (Gleneagles).
"If you use something hard against something soft, there will be trauma and the gums will start to recede."
It is also important to select the appropriate toothbrush size for your mouth to make sure that you can reach all of your teeth easily, said Dr See Toh Yoong Liang, a consultant at the prosthodontics unit at the department of restorative dentistry at National Dental Centre Singapore.
"If the head of the brush is too big, it may be difficult for you to reach the teeth at the back of your mouth."
A toothbrush with a rubber grip can be easier to hold, he added.
There are also trendy types, such as charcoal toothbrushes, but there is no evidence that they help with halitosis (bad breath), as claimed.
For those who have gum problems or very sensitive teeth, ultrasoft toothbrushes are a good option.
And people with arthritis or poor manual dexterity may find electric toothbrushes useful.
"This group will benefit from using electric toothbrushes as certain varieties that come with oscillating bristles, especially the ones that work in circular motions as well as back and forth, are as effective as manual brushing in removing plaque," said Dr See Toh.
2 Use three or four toothbrushes a year
Do not stint on toothbrushes. Change them every three or four months, as toothbrush bristles will start to fray over time and will not be as effective in doing its job.
3 Use dental floss
Flossing is the only way to get rid of the plaque from the areas between your teeth. These are the areas that your toothbrush cannot reach.
It is important to remove the plaque as it generates acid that will lead to cavities as well as gum disease.
4 Use a tongue scraper
Whether or not you use a tongue scraper, it is important to clean the tongue.
"This helps to remove bacteria, decaying food debris, fungi and dead cells from the surface of the tongue which also contribute to halitosis," said Dr See Toh.
You can clean your tongue with the coarse back surface of some toothbrushes or tongue scrapers, though the latter may be a better choice.
Dr See Toh said: "Tongue scrapers have been shown to be more effective than toothbrushes in reducing levels of compounds on the tongue that cause halitosis."
Apart from hard plastic or stainless steel ones, tongue scrapers with soft bristles are now available in the market.
5 Use the right toothpaste
Choose a low abrasion toothpaste if you have sensitive teeth, a result of dentine exposure.
"There are tiny channels in the dentine that contain nerve endings leading to the pulp," said Dr See Toh. The pulp is the tooth's soft core which contains blood vessels and nerves.
"Toothpaste for sensitive teeth work by blocking these channels and stabilising the nerve in the tooth as they seal the dentin surface (a layer below the enamel protecting the dental pulp)."
To see benefits, long-term continuous usage is required, he added.
This article was first published on June 19, 2014.
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