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Don't Be a Yuck Mouth

The 1970's and 80's were an entertaining time with all the public service commercials that were in the Saturday morning cartoon lineup. To my knowledge, there isn't an equivalent today and I think it's unfortunate. Schoolhouse Rock and their catchy tunes helped reinforce what we learned in language arts, history, science, and mathematics. Some of the more popular videos were "Conjunction Junction", "I'm Just a Bill", "A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing", and " Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here". Another series, was ABC's Bod Squad which had important messages to kids on how to take care of their bodies. "Don't Drown Your Food", "Nutty Gritty", and "The Munchies" were episodes that I remember when I was a kid. There was one episode in particular that was attention-grabbing and catchy; "Yuk Mouth" sung by Scatman Crothers. It encouraged children to brush their teeth, so today, I have a few thoughts regarding toothbrushing to avoid being a Yuck Mouth.

So, what are we trying to accomplish by brushing our teeth? Goals should include removing:

1. Biofilm and plaque before it hardens into tartar. Tartar can lead to gum infections, bone loss, and loss of teeth.

2. Foreign bodies and food before an inflammatory reaction occurs or before oral bacteria converts food sugars into acid that can damage the teeth.

3. Bacteria that converts sugar to acid. Streptococcus mutans, lactobacilli, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans are implicated in decay and periodontal infections. The anaerobic spirochete Treponema denticola has also been found in periodontal infections. Brushing doesn't necessarily eliminate the bacteria as much as it temporarily reduces the overall bacterial count.

4. Sugars such as sucrose, glucose, lactose, and fructose. All of them can be converted into acid by certain strains of oral bacteria.

5. Acids such as phosphoric, ascorbic, and hydrochloric due to their deleterious effects on enamel, dentin, and cementum.

Other goals should include the application of fluoride to the tooth surface. The importance of fluoride is because of the following: Acid removes calcium from the enamel. Fluoride switches places with the calcium in the tooth and is harder to remove by the acid making the tooth more resistant to decay.

Brushing Method

1. Manual Toothbrush.

a. Use a soft bristle toothbrush using warm water.

b. Hold the toothbrush parallel to your teeth.

c. Tilt the brush to a 45 degree angle. The bristles should be slightly under the gum line using firm, gentle pressure. Less pressure actually cleans better.

d. Brush up and down or use circular motions 15-20 times before moving to the next area.

e. Remember teeth have 5 surfaces, so make sure you contact each surface consistently and thoroughly.

f. If you have dental work such as fillings and crowns, pay particular attention to the area where the restoration meets the tooth to help prevent recurrent decay.

g. It should take you 2 minutes to brush a mouthful of teeth.

h. Brushing 3 times a day after meals would be ideal, but at least twice a day minimum.

i. Replace your toothbrush monthly or after bouts of flu, colds, or other contagious illnesses.

j. Be sure to brush your tongue.

2. Electric Toothbrush

a. Do not scrub. Use a short, soft back and forth motion, letting the bristles do most of the work for you.

b. Don't brush too hard. Let the brush do the work for you.

c. Brush for 2 full minutes. This is important because most people don't take the time to adequately brush in all areas.

There are other ways to brush the teeth depending on the clinical situation of the patient. For example, patients who had periodontal surgery may be instructed to brush their teeth less aggressively towards the gums. My best advice when it comes to technique is to follow your dentist's or dental hygienist's recommendation. I believe frequent, thorough brushing is a great step in the prevention of dental decay and ensuring that you don't become a yuck mouth.

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