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Brush up on your dental care

Consumer Reports News: August 04, 2010 02:58 PM

Toothbruhes come in all sizes and colorssome spin and others pulsate. But a toothbrush is worthless if you're brushing incorrectly. Our ShopSmart editors consulted with Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist in Farmington, Minn., and a consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, on keeping your teeth healthy and when an electric toothbrush comes in handy.

Who should buy a power toothbrush? All you really need is a good soft-bristled manual toothbrush if you take the time and effort to really clean your teeth. But if you have arthritis, lack dexterity, or would like some extra power, the powered toothbrushes are wonderful.

What’s the biggest brushing mistake people make? Just swishing the toothbrush around without making sure to reach all areas of the mouth. People tend to brush their teeth very quickly, and they end up missing spots, especially in the back of their mouth. And that’s a real problem because plaque is full of bacteria and it can lead to gum disease and cavities.

Are there any steps you can skip if you’re in a rush? I recommend that my patients brush at least twice a day and floss at least daily. I guess in a pinch you can occasionally skip one brushing. You won’t suffer too much damage since it takes about 24 hours for plaque and bacteria to form on your teeth. But only occasionally!

Any products you recommend? I’m thrilled with the little Y-shaped floss picks. People don’t like to floss, so I love anything that makes it easier. These floss aids help you get to those hard-to-reach spots in between teeth. I’ve even seen dinosaur-shaped flossers, which is very exciting because I’m seeing both kids and adults floss more. (Warning: We did the math, and floss picks cost about 4 cents apiece, about twice as much as regular dental floss costs per use.)

For more on keeping your teeth healthy, take a look at our tips for cleaner teeth and check out our latest electric toothbrush report and Ratings (available to subscribers).

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