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Arlington, TX 76012

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brushing teethLooking for a $1,000,000 idea? How about the perfect toothbrush?

That’s exactly what entrepreneur Mike Davidson and dentist Mike Smith set out to do. Since 2007, this team has been working towards creating a toothbrush that scrubs and polishes better than any other toothbrush on the market. (Not that others haven’t tried before.)

What’s so special about this brush?

To remove the bacteria that cause gum disease, most dentists say you should hold the brush so the bristles are at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Easy enough, but most people don’t. Davidson’s brush has an unusual handle that automatically puts the bristles at the correct angle.

Note the phrase “most dentists.” But it turns out there’s actually little consensus on the matter.

This we know thanks to a paper that came out in the British Dental Journal not long before NPR’s feature on Davidson’s and Smith’s brush. (Talk about lousy timing!) A review of online materials and dental texts found that

There was a wide diversity between recommendations on toothbrushing techniques, how often people should brush their teeth and for how long. The most common method recommended was the Modified Bass technique, by 19. Eleven recommended the Bass technique, ten recommended the Fones technique and five recommended the Scrub technique. The methods recommended by companies, mainly toothpaste companies, differed from those of dental associations, as did advice in dental textbooks and research-based sources. There was a wide difference in the toothbrushing methods recommended for adults and for children.

So what to make of all this? As the study’s lead author told the New York Times, “a simple scrub” may be effective enough.

And truth be told, the kind of brush you use matters less than you may think. A toothbrush can’t make you brush your teeth effectively any more than a treadmill can make you exercise.

What matters is that you clean all of your teeth. By “all,” we mean every single surface where plaque and bacteria might lurk.

That means between the teeth, too. Bristles can’t reach these areas, making them the ideal breeding grounds for oral bacteria and other pathogens. This is where flossing comes into the picture. Not only does it help clean these surfaces, as well as remove any food debris that’s been caught, but it also helps lower your risk of gum disease – and the host of other inflammatory conditions that have been linked to it.

If flossing is a problem for you, you may find it easier to achieve the same result – a clean mouth – by using interproximal or “proxy” brushes, perio-aids or an oral irrigator such as Waterpik. (Another benefit of using an irrigator: It’s easy to add herbal medicaments such as Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums that can enhance oral health.)

The main thing: Get every surface clean. It’s your best insurance against decay and disease, supporting both your oral and systemic health.

As for the best toothbrush? As we’ve said before, the best brush is the one you use regularly.

Image by Just Jefa

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