If you’re like most people, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about how you brush your teeth. After all, you’ve been doing it for decades, likely before you could even write your name or tie your shoes! You might assume you’ve mastered the perfect technique—until you come in for a dental cleaning and learn that you need to brush up on your tooth brushing habits. Here’s a quick primer to make sure you’re brushing your teeth properly to keep them healthy and strong.
Start with the Right Toothbrush
Do you use a firm-bristled toothbrush because you think it gets your teeth cleaner? If you do, you’re not alone, but this strategy can do more harm than good. Even though your teeth might feel cleaner after brushing with those stiff bristles, they can also cause your gums to recede, jeopardizing your overall oral health.
Believe it or not, soft bristles are just as effective as firmer ones for cleaning your teeth when you use proper brushing technique, and they won’t damage your gums. When brushing, avoid using a lot of pressure (which can also cause gum damage) and always remember to replace your brush every three months.
Use the Right Toothpaste
These days, there are countless brands of fancy toothpastes on the market. You can get ones with all kinds of flavors, toothpaste made with charcoal or clay, and ones formulated for every type of dental need you can imagine. It’s important to look past marketing, hype, and novelty, and instead look for one thing: the American Dental Association seal. This means the toothpaste has been found to be safe and effective by the ADA.
On the topic of toothpaste, you should also make sure you use the right amount. In toothpaste ads, you always see a thick squeeze of toothpaste from one end of the brush head to the other, but that’s actually much more than you need. The ADA recommends only a pea-sized amount.
Most people spend more time brushing the fronts of their front teeth than anywhere else in the mouth, but it’s important to spend an equal amount of time on all of your teeth.
The simplest way to do this is to mentally divide your mouth into four sections: your upper right teeth, upper left teeth, lower right teeth, and lower left teeth. Brush each of these sections for 30 seconds. When you brush, be sure to spend equal time on the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of every tooth.
As for the brushing technique itself, you should place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and move it back and forth gently in a circular motion. Once you’re done, rinse with water (or a mouth rinse) to remove any plaque or food particles that you’ve loosened during brushing. Don’t forget to floss once a day either!
Brush for Two Minutes
Are you timing yourself when you brush your teeth? If not, you’re probably not brushing for the recommended two minutes twice a day. Two minutes can be a lot longer than it seems when it comes to brushing your teeth, and if you’re only brushing for a minute or so instead of two, it will make a big difference in your twice-a-year dental cleanings and your oral health.