Brushing your teeth

To keep your teeth and gums healthy, you need to remove plaque effectively every day.

Brushing and flossing are the two most important ways of removing plaque.

Photo of a young woman about to brush her teeth. How to brush

  • Brush at least twice daily:
    • at night, before going to sleep
    • in the morning, after breakfast.
  • Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Hold your toothbrush at a 45° angle to your gums.
  • Brush all tooth surfaces gently and thoroughly by moving your brush back and forth in short tooth-wide strokes.

You can watch a video on how to brush on the Healthy Smiles website.

Photo of a young man brushing his teth in the morning.Where to buy fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste is available from your local supermarket. Most standard toothpastes sold in New Zealand contain at least 1000 ppm fluoride.

Fluoride strength

Toothpastes sold in New Zealand are often labelled using percent measures to indicate strength of the fluoride content. The following table, from the Guidelines for the Use of Fluorides (p19), provides a conversion from percentages to parts per million.

Percentages converted to parts per million
Percentages (%) Parts per million (ppm)
0.304% sodium monofluorophosphate 400 ppm
0.117% sodium fluoride 500 ppm
0.4% sodium monofluorophosphate 526 ppm
0.221% sodium fluoride 1000 ppm
0.76% sodium monofluorophosphate 1000 ppm
1.1% sodium fluoride 5000 ppm

The Expert Advisory Group of the NZ Guidelines Group recommends that:

  • toothpastes of at least 1000 ppm is recommended for all ages, and should be used twice daily
  • parents and caregivers are advised that a smear of fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children up to 5 years old.
  • for children 6 years old and over, a pea-sized amount should be used.

Look for packaging labels that say ‘contains 0.221% sodium fluoride’ or ‘contains 0.76% sodium monofluorophosphate’ to ensure that you purchase toothpastes that contain at least 1000 ppm fluoride. Avoid the ones that are labelled ‘child strength’.

Halal and vegan toothpastes

If you need halal or vegan toothpaste, the Ministry has received advice from Colgate and GlaxoSmithKline that:

  • all Sensodyne toothpaste manufactured in Thailand is halal certified
  • the following brands do not contain any animal-based components:
    • Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection Great Regular Flavour
    • Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection Cool Mint
    • Colgate Max White Crystal Mint
    • Colgate Max Fresh Clean Mint
    • Colgate Triple Action.

Forgotten to brush?

If you forget to brush, or no toothbrush is handy, it’s not the end of the world … just brush whenever you can next.

Meanwhile, you can:

  • rinse using water or saline solution (made by dissolving salt in water)
  • then rub toothpaste around your teeth with your finger.

Reproduced with the permission of the New Zealand Dental Association, based on the ‘Keeping Your Teeth for a Lifetime ... Easy As’ resource.

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