Oral Hygiene

Girl brushing her teeth

The best way to prevent decay (cavities) and periodontal diseases is by daily thorough tooth brushing and flossing techniques and regular professional examinations and cleanings. Our office is committed to providing you with the tools and knowledge to effectively keep your mouth relatively bacteria-free. As part of periodontal therapy our staff will often spend extensive time with you to develop these techniques.

How to Brush

While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using small, gentle strokes. Use some pressure while putting the bristles between the teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort. When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions while cleaning the inside of the back teeth.

To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.

Next, you will clean the biting surfaces of your teeth. To do this, use short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.

How Long To Brush?

At least two minutes is a good rule of thumb!

If you have any pain while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please be sure to call the office.

How to Floss

Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces, and is the only oral hygiene method that is capable of doing so. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.

Our office recommends unwaxed floss, and our preferred brand is POH. Our staff can provide you with a list of local pharmacies that carry the POH brand, or it may be ordered online. Other flosses also work well, so please ask one of our hygienists about additional recommendations.

Start with a piece of floss about 18″ long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.

To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in to place. Bring the floss to the gum line then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space. Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, turn from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.

To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefinger of both hands. Do not forget the back side of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.

When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.

Caring for Sensitive Teeth

Due to exposed roots from gum recession or sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. If the mouth is kept clean, this sensation can be minimized. However, if the mouth is not kept clean, the sensitivity will remain and could become more severe. If your teeth are especially sensitive, consult with Dr. Suttle, Dr. Pierce, or your hygienist. A medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth may be recommended.

Caring for Dental Implants

Oral hygiene around dental implants sometimes can require techniques or tools in addition to or different than those for teeth.

Choosing Oral Hygiene Products

There are so many products on the market that choosing the right one can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for selecting dental care products that will work for most patients:

Most patients can perform very effective brushing with a soft or extra soft manual toothbrush. In addition, our doctors or staff may recommend an electric toothbrush. The Sonicare toothbrush is most often recommended. We typically advise against using oral irrigators (water spraying devices) however we will recommend them for certain patients.

    • Unwaxed floss, such as POH brand, as mentioned above.
    • Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle that is used to massage the gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes, Proxabrush, SoftPics) that clean between your teeth. If these are used improperly you could injure the gums, so be sure to discuss proper use with Dr. Suttle, Dr. Pierce, or their staff.
    • If used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age.
    • Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but because gum disease starts below the gum line, these products have not been proven to reduce the early stages of gum disease.


  • Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help control signs of early gum disease. Use these in conjunction with brushing and flossing.

Dr. Suttle, Dr. Pierce, and their staff are the best people to help select the products that are best for you.