No one knows how we should be brushing our teeth

You know how to brush your teeth, don’t you? Squeeze toothpaste onto the brush, stick it in your mouth, and then… Well, then it turns out nobody’s exactly sure what to do for the best, so I guess maybe wing it?

Yep, all these years of human development, and no one has the definitive answer on how we should be brushing our teeth. In fact, we receive a lot of conflicting information on the topic, according to a study from University College London, who called existing advice ‘unacceptably inconsistent’.

Their research, which was published in the British Dental Journal, found that the brushing advice from toothpaste companies, dental textbooks, and dental associations in ten different countries varied hugely. There was no agreement on the best type of brush, how often to brush, or how long to brush for.

One of the biggest disparities was between dental associations and textbooks – suggesting that either methods have moved on and the books need to be updated, or dentists have forgotten everything they learned at university. (To be fair, it is a five-year course.)

Senior author of the study Professor Aubrey Sheiham called for more consistency and says that simple is probably best: ‘Brush gently with a simple horizontal scrubbing motion, with the brush at a forty-five degree angle to get to the dental plaque.’

But while this technique is likely to be effective, the study’s lead author, Dr John Wainwright, said there is still a lack of evidence about which method is best, and that there needs to be greater consistency so that the public trusts the dental profession.

For now, all dentists seem to be able to agree on is the fact that we should be brushing our teeth in some way, some number of times a day. And that the best time to ask a question is when they’ve popped a tongue retractor in your mouth, naturally.

Image via Laura Henderson’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley

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