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What are the How Tos of Brushing and Flossing?

Tooth brushing can help reduce or prevent cavities and gum disease.  Brushing alone, however, is not enough to clean all the surfaces of the teeth.  Flossing removes plaque from between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach.  If plaque is not removed from the surface of teeth it can lead to cavities and gum disease. 

Children’s brushing

A child’s toothbrush should fit their mouth and the bristles should be soft.  Parents need to dispense the fluoridated toothpaste onto the tooth brush.  For children under three years of age use only a small amount of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.   For children aged three and over a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is appropriate.  Children do not have the manual dexterity to brush properly until they are 7 or 8 years of age, therefore parents need to assist them with tooth brushing. It is recommended that children brush for 2 minutes twice a day.  Ensure that the child spits out excess toothpaste and have them refrain from rinsing to maintain fluoride for a healthier smile.

A parent’s guide to brushing

Place the bristles on the back molar teeth and scrub gently back and forth. Use the same motion on all biting surfaces of the upper and lower back teeth.  Then brush the outer surface of teeth starting at the back, with brush bristles placed where the tooth meets the gum line.  This time brush gently in circles as you move the brush forward to each tooth.  Do the same on the inside of the teeth, zeroing in on the gum line area. Here are some simple pictures to guide toothbrushing.

Adult brushing

It is recommended that you brush your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day.  There are a number of effective tooth brushing techniques.  Speak to your dentist or dental hygienist to see which one will work best for you.  Try to avoid brushing too hard, scrubbing back and forth or using a hard toothbrush.  This can damage both the teeth and gums. 
Your toothbrush should have a small head to fit easily to the back of your mouth.  Look for a brush with soft bristles and a long wide handle for an easy grasp.  You will need to change your toothbrush periodically – every 3-4 months, after you have been ill or if the bristles begin to show wear.


It doesn’t matter when you floss but try to do it everyday.    
There are many different types of dental floss, such as waxed or unwaxed, flavoured or unflavoured, regular floss or dental tape.  No one type of floss works better than the rest, however you may find that one type works better in your mouth.  Find out more about how to floss.   If you have difficulty flossing, speak to your oral health care provider, they may be able to adjust your technique to make flossing easier or suggest another option for cleaning between your teeth.  


Brushing with fluoridated toothpaste will strengthen your teeth and help prevent cavities.  Choose toothpaste that has the Canadian Dental Association Seal of Approval.  These products have been tested and proven to work as they claim.  Find toothpaste with a flavour that you enjoy – it does not matter if it is paste or gel.  You only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure to spit out any excess toothpaste when finished brushing.  Not rinsing after brushing allows the fluoride to remain longer in your saliva.

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