Brushing 101: The How To Guide

Woman showing how to brush teeth

People tend to like to cut corners to save time and effort. You might decide that some trade-offs are worth it in life, but skimping on brushing your teeth to save a minute or two per day is a shortcut you shouldn’t take.

Two minutes is not a long time, yet according to the ADA, most Americans don’t brush long enough, and 30% brush less than twice per day. The majority of us have room for improvement, so let’s discuss how to do it right.

Back to Basics

worn out toothbrush

The Equipment

You will, of course, require a toothbrush. While the specific bristle pattern of your brush can vary depending on what you prefer, the bristles themselves should be soft. Hard bristles can actually do damage to your teeth, wearing away the enamel that protects your teeth.

I’d recommend a high-quality electric toothbrush, such as the Sonicare DiamondClean. If you’ve never used one, the first time you do will be an enlightening moment. You will feel as though you have never brushed your teeth before (but in a good way!).

Your toothbrush should be allowed to dry between uses and stored upright. After about three months of use, the bristles in your brush are worn enough that they are less effective at removing plaque from your teeth and gums. Additionally, germs and bacteria can gradually build up in your toothbrush, especially if you’ve been sick, so replace it regularly.

You will also be using toothpaste (just a small dab). I recommend using a product that contains fluoride. Fluoride will help prevent tooth decay by strengthening that protective enamel. You might choose toothpastes specific for issues you face, such as those designed for whitening, sensitive teeth, or preventing cavities.

The Technique

You may have been brushing your teeth for your whole life, but have you ever done any quality assurance testing?

The next time you are in for a cleaning, have the hygienist evaluate your technique. Most people will make sure to get the visible surfaces of their front teeth clean, but don’t invest heavily into those hard-to-see spots.

Brushing Best Practices:

  • Holding the toothbrush tilted at a 45 degree angle, use a circular motion to get the outside surfaces of your upper and lower teeth.
  • Brush the inside surfaces of your upper and lower teeth.
  • Clean the chewing surfaces of your teeth
  • Don’t forget your tongue!

The Duration and Frequency

It’s generally recommended that you brush your teeth for two minutes, though the condition of your mouth will be what dictates how much time is actually needed. Most people don’t brush long enough, so err on the side of caution.

You probably already know that you are supposed to brush your teeth twice a day. If you skip a session, you let the bacteria grow (fed by the sugar and food particles left in your mouth). This leads to the development of a biofilm that can house periodontal bugs. By brushing this away regularly, the free floating pathogens in your mouth won’t attach themselves to your teeth and gums.

You don’t have to brush all your teeth…just the ones you want to keep!

Cat brushing teeth

You don’t have to wait for bad news to find out that you have some work to do on your technique. A great demonstration tool for both adults and children is the plaque disclosing tablet.

After following your normal brushing and flossing routine, chew a tablet and mix it around with the saliva in your mouth for 30 seconds. The product contains a harmless dye that that reacts with leftover plaque in your mouth, showing you where your own trouble spots are. You can even test the effectiveness of your flossing with plaque disclosing floss!

Even though brushing our teeth is something we have been working on every day of our lives, the majority of us still haven’t quite gotten the process right. If you have any questions about what you can do to improve your oral hygiene, we are always here to help.

~Dr. Marea White