For my ground-breaking, first post, I wanted to talk about a question I get routinely everyday in my practice. “How often should I brush my child’s teeth?” When I ask kids this question, I love the answers I get. Most kids will give me the text-book answer of 2 times or 3 times a day. Some kids are more honest and will tell me once a week or even whenever I get some food stuck on my teeth. Even today, a patient told me that she brushed her teeth 100 times before she came. Clearly by the amount of plaque and food visible on her teeth, I told her to stand closer to the toothbrush! She didn’t understand my attempt at humor.
Anyway, the question is how often should we brush our teeth. When I was growing up, I was always told to brush 3 times a day. Currently, the trend is to recommend brushing twice daily. The truth is that anytime we put anything in our mouth that contains sugar, the bacteria (a.k.a sugar bugs) make acid and start to weaken the enamel of our teeth. This lasts for about 20 minutes and then the sugar bugs stop producing acid. (Simply put – the sugar bugs eat sugar and poop out acid for about 20 minutes after eating). Brushing should really occur anytime after we expose our teeth to sugar. At a minimum, we should brush our teeth twice daily.
Despite my best efforts to control cavities in a patient, some patients continue to get new cavities every 6 months or every year. They may live in an area that has fluoride in the drinking water, and they may use fluoride toothpaste. It just seems that some people are more susceptible to getting cavities. So my first recommendation is to brush at least twice a day if they are currently brushing only once a day. An over the counter fluoride mouth rinse might be recommended to these patients as well. However, based on data from a review from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research articles, the addition of fluoride mouth rinse in a child’s oral hygiene routine does not reduce the amount of cavities if the child is already brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. So twice a day is the magic number to brush your teeth to prevent cavities but make sure that you stand close enough to the toothbrush to actually remove the plaque and food when you do brush.