Many of us go through the routine of brushing our teeth twice a day or more. Sometimes it’s a rushed process when getting ready early in the morning, and we’ve all been guilty of a “drive-by” brushing late at night after a long day. However, most of us do our best brushing right before a dentist appointment! We all have different brushing styles, but studies show, Americans are not brushing their teeth well enough, overall.
Even though we were all taught to brush our teeth as children, are we really doing it right? Sure, the PSAs we saw in health class many moons ago went over the brushing and flossing basics with fun animated characters, but when was the last time you’ve personally had a refresher?
Your hygienist can tell you a lot about the way you brush your teeth at regular cleanings, which is just one reason among so many to make sure you stay current with your appointments every six months. They can tell by the buildup patterns on your teeth whether you’ve been brushing effectively, or if you need to put in some work to get on the right track.
Follow some of these tips to ensure that you’re brushing correctly every day to promote optimal oral health.
Brushing 101: The Facts
Each brushing session should last at least two minutes.
Yes, a whole 120 seconds! That may sound like a really short amount of time, but it seems that most adults overestimate entirely how much time they actually brush their teeth, clocking in at less than half the necessary time. The International Journal of Dental Hygiene found that brushing your teeth for one full minute removed about 27% of plaque, while a full two minutes removed about 41%, so twice as much. Cleaning for two minutes should be the ultimate goal for people who want to avoid dental issues and bacteria.
Concentrate on your gumline and hard to reach spots.
While we usually aim to get that gritty feeling off the surface of our front teeth as soon as possible, don’t stop there. Use gentle strokes aiming up at your gumline at a 45-degree angle. Go from section to section making sure to get in those hard to reach places. The tighter the space between teeth, the better the breeding ground for bacteria and gingivitis. Focus on these sections in particular:
- Clean outer surfaces of upper and lower teeth
- Clean inner surfaces of upper and lower teeth
- Clean all chewing surfaces
- Brush tongue at the end to remove bacteria
Your toothbrush makes a difference
Not all brushes are created equal in the oral hygiene market and buying an electric toothbrush has never been more affordable. Make sure whichever kind of toothbrush you choose has soft bristles. This is the only non-negotiable aspect of toothbrush buying. Whether you go manual or electric, soft bristles will make sure you are helping get under your gum line and aren’t using anything too abrasive that could harm your tooth enamel. Soft bristles can also get hard to reach areas more successfully, helping you avoid painful cavities that can sometimes even occur near the gumline. Also, keep in mind that you need to choose a brush head that matches the size of your mouth. If you have a small mouth and small bite, a large toothbrush head will not be able to get into hard to reach areas. Check out smaller sizes or even kid’s brushes if you need to find a smaller brush head to get the best cleaning.
Choose your toothpaste wisely
Everyone’s teeth are different, and some people need specific formations of toothpaste to help them achieve optimal mouth health. Even though it seems like toothpaste is something we just always have around, take some time and research which kind is best for you. Maybe if you find toothpaste you really like, it will make you want to brush your teeth for longer!
Change your brush head or manual brush more often
Just like changing your bed sheets, razors, and shower towels, swapping out your brush is crucial to making sure your mouth stays clean and that the bristles are doing their job. Most brush heads shouldn’t be used for more than three to four months. If you notice that the bristles have become flared or frayed, it’s time to part ways. The good news is, you can easily buy brush heads or manual brushes in bulk these days so that you won’t be left without.
Make sure you’re not just going back and forth, left to right
There is so much more to brushing than running the brush from side to side. You need to go up and down too! Start from the gumline and use up and down motions, while adding in some circular motions as well. Make sure you’re not brushing too hard, either! Some people tend to think being thourough means being rough. However it’s just not the case. In fact, it can really damage your enamel. Using gentle, circular strokes, making sure to get around the outside and inside gumline is best.
Have at least one very good brushing session a day
If you truly give your best effort at least one of the two times you brush a day; you’ll be doing your body some good. Pull out all the stops either every morning or every night and pull out the floss, water pick, mouthwash, and whatever else you like to use. If you’re disrupting the production of bacteria in your teeth at least once a day in a major way, it’s much better than only doing three very half-hearted brushings a day.
If you have any questions about brushing techniques, don’t hesitate to ask your dental hygienist. There are no stupid questions! The more effort you put into making sure your teeth are clean every day, the less dental problems you will have in the future. Along with regular cleanings (about every six months), brushing your teeth correctly should keep your oral health the best that it can be.