The wrong way to brush your teeth

When I was a child in Switzerland I had regular visits to the dentist just like my children do now, here in Canada. I went once a year (which was what was covered by my dad’s plan) and never had a cavity. As I got older, I got a retainer from an orthodontist, and then we moved to Canada.

I continued regular visits to the dentist until I was no longer a dependent child. For a while, I didn’t go anymore. I had no plan, I wasn’t covered by my parents, and I had no money. OSAP (student loans) didn’t include the buffer to keep my teeth checked by a professional so I was dentist-less for several years. It wasn’t until I was working full time at my second job where I once again had dental insurance.

(Aside: My first job was as a flight attendant and I had no benefits and no pension, whatsoever. Also, my income at the time was considered below the official poverty line, so dental visits did not seem particularly pertinent, especially because I had no oral issues at all. Besides, most of my income went to car payments (no transit to the airport) and student loans. I even had to move back in with my parents after University…long story short, a dentist wasn’t going to convince me to part with my money.)

At some point though, as these things go, I settled down a bit more, had a steady income with benefits, and an apartment. I returned to my old dentist for yearly checkups, and miraculously, I still had no cavities.

All was swell.

Since I had kids of my own, I’ve been more diligent with their various health appointments than I have been with my own. But since I’m taking them anyway, I may as well get my own teeth cleaned too.

Again, all is just dandy.

Then, a few years ago, our family dentist remarked that I should not brush the way I do anymore. My method was contributing to receding gums.


I thought back to my days in Switzerland and remember distinctly, not just at the dentist, but also at the school dental visits that happened yearly, we were told to brush in a circular motion. That massaging the gums this way is good for you, and good for the general state of your mouth.

No no no, my current dentist says. Brush gently, from the top gums down toward the bottom of the teeth, to avoid the gums receding. Gum surgery is painful, expensive, and often not covered by insurance, he said.

All I heard was gum surgery.


So now my decades-long habit of brushing in a circular motion is no longer effective, and can in fact contribute to the potential worsening of my gums. Yet, every time I brush  my teeth, I automatically brush in circles. This little habit is surprisingly difficult to change.

Yet, there it is. Brush down, not circular, and keep those bi-annually appointments. Even if the dentist tells you you’re doing it wrong.




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