Cavities often develop along the cheek side of teeth, as well as between teeth, and in deep grooves, because those areas are not easily cleansed with the tongue. It is important to remove plaque from all surfaces of a tooth, because bacteria that is left clinging to a tooth is likely to release acid when it comes in contact with certain foods, and acid causes teeth to lose minerals. Because it is not possible for a toothbrush to clean between teeth, there is a saying “you don’t have to floss all of your teeth… floss only the ones you want to keep.”

When brushing, angle the brush towards your gums, so that some of the bristles are actually cleaning along the gumline. For best plaque removal, it is best to brush for two minutes. Brushing for less than two minutes may mean that not all surfaces were adequately brushed, while brushing for much more than two minutes may mean that the teeth are being scrubbed excessively, and can result in the enamel being “abraded” away. Google “toothbrush abrasion pictures” if you’d like to see what can happen when someone brushes too hard for too long.

There are two main functions to flossing. Function 1: to remove plaque in the area where the teeth are contacting each other. Cavities often happen in the contact areas, so removing plaque in these areas can be done with flossers or with floss wrapped around a finger. Function 2: to remove plaque that is under the gums (between teeth). If plaque accumulates under the gums, the minerals that are in the mouth can slowly harden the plaque, and it becomes “calculus.” Calculus becomes attached to the tooth and can no longer be flossed out, and has to be removed with special dental instruments called scalers and curettes. Some people are able to do a good job of flossing with flossers, and other people have an easier time with wrapping floss around fingers. As long as you remove the plaque from between teeth and from the area under the gums, you have flossed successfully regardless of which technique you used.