We can’t argue that brushing your teeth is incredibly important for good oral health. However, trying your best may not be good enough.
Studies show that many adults do not use the right techniques to clear up dental plaque, food residue, and other debris. Not surprisingly, many experience tooth decay as a result.
However, fixing your brushing technique is more than doable with just a few adjustments to your brushing frequency, duration, and motion — in addition to the tools you use.
In this guide from Flossy, we’ll go over 13 tips for maximizing cleanliness, explain why they work, and how you can implement them starting today.
Toothbrushing is the main way by which you can remove plaque from your teeth and gums while reducing plaque-related diseases, such as cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
This might lead you to wonder: How often should you brush your teeth?
If you think the answer is twice per day, then you’re in line with the American Dental Association (ADA) recommendations for oral hygiene.
Brushing before bed is needed to remove plaque build-up from food eaten throughout the day.
For those who breathe through their mouth during sleep — or experience any conditions that lead to dry mouth — plaque build-up may increase during sleep. This makes brushing in the morning important for some people. Plus, we all want fresh breath to start our day right.
One review of the literature found that brushing just once per day may be effective. However, this is the case with those who use a very effective brushing technique. Because so many people fail to brush their teeth correctly, many dentists recommend brushing twice daily.
Some people swear by brushing after every meal. While it makes sense to brush before an important event, such as a date, it’s not a habit you should adopt. This is because excessive brushing is linked to the wearing away of tooth enamel, which can actually increase your chances of tooth decay.
The average brushing time in the U.S. is about 45 seconds. However, studies show that it takes about two minutes to effectively remove plaque from all corners of your teeth and gums when brushing.
By increasing your brushing time from 45 seconds to two minutes, you’ll be increasing your plaque removal by up to 55%! Even a 30-second increase can remove 30% more plaque.
So, are you supposed to set a timer every time you brush your time? While that’s certainly an option, there are other ways to reach your time quota.
For instance, you can sing a popular song (in your head). The “happy birthday” song lasts about 20 seconds. Singing it about six times over will get you to two minutes. If you get tired of this song, there are plenty of other alternatives to look to.
If you use an electric toothbrush, then you can invest in one that comes with a two-minute timer. At the very least, just keep a clock in your bathroom to watch the time as you brush.
If you hold your toothbrush parallel to the teeth when brushing, then you might be removing less plaque than you should be.
Instead of doing this, the ADA recommends placing the toothbrush against the gum line at a 45-degree angle. This will allow you to remove plaque from above and below the gingival margin, which is the gum tissue surrounding your tooth.
The motion that you use matters when you’re brushing your teeth. It’s best to avoid brushing your teeth in a horizontal motion, as this can be abrasive to the teeth and gums.
Instead, you can brush in a circular motion or a vertical motion. Which motion you use mainly depends on which section of your teeth you’re brushing. If you’re brushing the front of the teeth, then a circular motion is best. However, it might be hard to clean the back of the teeth in this way, in which case the vertical motion may be used instead.
We get it: Some parts of the teeth are notoriously hard to reach. As a result, you may either not brush them as effectively or avoid them altogether. Of course, by doing this, you leave plaque on your teeth and gums, which can progress into tooth decay.
When brushing, make sure that you hit the front, back, and bottom of the teeth. As mentioned above, changing up your brushing technique can make this easier.
Also, don’t neglect the teeth in the back of your jaw — such as your wisdom teeth. These are just as susceptible to tooth decay as your front teeth, which makes cleaning them equally important.
It might feel like the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth will be. However, by brushing vigorously, you’re actually removing some of your enamel. Even though you have the best intentions, doing this can make your teeth more prone to decay and infection from bacteria. Plus, you can leave your gums sore from excessive brushing.
Next time you brush, focus on applying gentle pressure to your teeth (while still being thorough).
In theory, toothbrushes with hard bristles are supposed to be better at cleaning away plaque and food debris. What’s more, they’re usually marketed as being able to clear away tartar (which only a dental professional can do).
The reality is that there is simply no evidence to support any of these claims. Studies show that soft-bristled toothbrushes are effective in cleaning teeth while being able to minimize gum soreness and enamel damage.
To minimize your chances of complications, chuck your hard-bristled toothbrush in favor of a softer option.
With use, the bristles on your toothbrush can become worn, which makes them less effective at clearing away plaque.
You might also want to do this for hygienic reasons. While you shouldn’t be worried about viruses (since they can’t reinfect you), bacteria can thrive on old toothbrushes.
To avoid using an ineffective toothbrush, try to replace yours once every three or four months. Of course, if you notice that your toothbrush is beginning to fray sooner than that, feel free to chuck it — no matter how little it’s been since you bought it.
Manual toothbrushes are just as effective at removing plaque as electric ones. What’s more, electric toothbrushes may be more expensive than manual options. This makes buying them unnecessary for many people.
However, if you suffer from mobility problems — such as those caused by injuries — then a powered toothbrush may be easier to use. A powered toothbrush can also be a better choice for children as they learn proper brushing techniques.
After you’re done using your toothbrush, make sure to rinse it completely to remove any pieces of debris. After doing this, make sure to store the toothbrush in an upright position. This will allow air to circulate while preventing the growth of bacteria.
Unless you’re traveling, try not to store your toothbrush in a closed container. Doing this can promote bacterial growth — especially if your toothbrush is wet when you store it.
When choosing your toothpaste, make sure to pick someone that meets your goals for dental health.
For instance, if you experience tooth sensitivity, then it’s likely a sign that some of your enamel is wearing away. To build it back up, you may consider toothpaste with fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can help to make tooth enamel stronger and harder. Using fluoride can help to reverse demineralization — which is what happens when the enamel begins to lose minerals. Fluoride also happens to be an effective ingredient for clearing up dental plaque.
If your goals are more aesthetic, then you can try whitening toothpaste. However, keep in mind that these toothpaste contain bleaching agents, which can potentially harm the tooth enamel. As such, it’s best not to use them too often.
If you’re using a toothpaste with active ingredients, then using a small pea-sized amount is incredibly important. This will prevent you — or your child — from accidentally swallowing some of the toothpaste, which isn’t necessarily the best thing for health. For instance, consuming too much fluoride is linked to dental fluorosis, which can lead to white spots on the teeth.
Besides that, it’s simply unnecessary to use a large amount of toothpaste. While toothpaste commercials often show an entire toothbrush covered with toothpaste, you only need a small amount to get its plaque-removing benefits while getting the effects of its active ingredients.
As a bonus, you’ll save yourself plenty of money and trips to the drugstore by using less toothpaste.
Although brushing your teeth will remove the majority of plaque from the teeth and gums, a standard toothbrush can’t reach the tight spaces in-between teeth. This is a major risk factor for plaque build-up.
Flossing is an absolute must in your oral hygiene routine. Make sure to get every tooth when flossing — even those all the way in the back — by using the c-shaped technique.
Despite the importance of proper teeth brushing for dental health, many U.S. adults don’t use the correct technique.
To make sure that you’re cleaning your teeth in the best way possible, make sure to brush two times per day for at least two minutes. In addition, use a circular motion while applying as little pressure as possible. To help you, use a soft-bristled toothbrush (manual or electric) with the right toothpaste for you.
In addition to properly brushing your teeth, make sure to see a dentist for regular screenings. With Flossy’s network of dental professionals, you’ll be getting high-quality dental care at a fraction of the cost of other dentists. Schedule your appointment today.
Toothbrushing: to the best of one's abilities is possibly not good enough | PMC
Toothbrushes | American Dental Association
Tooth brushing and oral health: how frequently and when should tooth brushing be performed? | PMC
Effect of Toothbrushing Frequency on Incidence and Increment of Dental Caries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis | Sagepub
The effect of brushing time and dentifrice on dental plaque removal in vivo | NCBI
My Hand-Washing Song: Readers Offer Lyrics For A 20-Second Scrub | NPR
Evaluation of the Effect of Ultra-Soft Toothbrushes with Different Commercial Brands on Plaque and Bleeding Indices | PMC
You don't have to throw away a toothbrush if you've been sick | Insider