How to Properly Brush Your Teeth

How long do you think it takes to properly brush your teeth? 30 seconds? One minute?

Try two minutes. Yes, you read that right – it takes 120 seconds to properly brush your teeth. Set up a stopwatch next time you brush your teeth. Use the stopwatch every time you brush your teeth for the next week or until you get used to brushing for at least two minutes. It may feel too long at first, but toward the end of the week, you will become accustomed to brushing for the proper length of time.

Here’s another question for you. How are you brushing your teeth? Are you paying equal attention to each side of your mouth and all 5 surfaces of each tooth? Do you brush your gums and tongue? Are you using short, gentle strokes? If your answer is “yes” to all of the above, you are brushing correctly. Here are some other tips to consider when brushing your teeth:

  • Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and make an up-and-down motion. Brushing with wide side-to-side strokes can cause scrapes along the gumline so be gentle.
  • Focus on hard-to-reach areas such as the back of the mouth. Bacteria can build up in your back teeth, causing plaque to form if not brushed. Your back teeth (molars) are the teeth that does all the chewing so it is important to adequately brush those teeth
  • Don’t neglect the gumline. When brushing your gumline, make sure to use short, gentle strokes away from the gumline as if sweeping bacteria away from the affected area.
  • Brush the inner surface. The inner surface of your teeth is an often-neglected area of the mouth and needs as much – if not more – attention as the outer surface. Make sure you spend some time brushing the inner surface to avoid plaque and tartar build-up.
  • Brush your tongue in order to remove extra bacteria and freshen your breath. If you have never brushed your tongue before, try buying a tongue scraper. You will be amazed how much plaque can accumulate on the surface of your tongue!

When it comes to the type of toothbrush you should use, many dentists recommend using a soft-bristled brush and a small-headed brush to reach all areas of the mouth. An electric toothbrush is a great option, especially for those who have limited manual dexterity. Some electric toothbrushes even have settings that help you adhere to the two-minute rule. One of my favorite dental products ever invented is the electronic toothbrush!

Recommendations for Toothbrush Care:

– Do not share toothbrushes. Bacteria lives on everything out there especially a used toothbrush. Exchanging your toothbrush with another person could expose you to an increase risk of infection especially for those who suffer any existing infectious disease or compromised immune system.

– Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with water after brushing. After brushing your teeth, make sure you run the bristles thoroughly with water to help reduce the amount of debris etc on the brush head. It is recommended to stand the toothbrush upright to allow the brush to air-dry until used again. Do not store toothbrushes next to another person’s toothbrush with the bristles facing one another.

– Store toothbrushes in the open. Storing your toothbrush open to the air will allow a dry environment that is less conducive to the growth of microorganisms. Storing toothbrushes in closed containers on a routine basis is not recommended. Bacteria love moist environments, which is why it is recommended to store your toothbrush in an open environment.

Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Over time your bristles will become frayed and worn. Factors such as frequency of usage, technique of brushing, etc will affect the rate at which the brush becomes worn. Try to pay attention to when your and your children’s brushes need to be replaced. On average, children’s toothbrushes need to be replaced more frequently than adults.

For more tips on proper brushing techniques, contact Dr. Kathy Bui.