Are You Brushing Correctly?

toothbrush blue pasteIn a previous article, Toothbrushes and Toothpastes and Mouthwash… Oh My! A Guide to Dental Care Products, we mentioned that no matter how worthy or expensive of a toothbrush (or toothpaste) you buy, it’s not going to do you much good if you don’t brush properly. To get the most out of your at-home preventative dental care, it’s important that you know and implement a correct and effective brushing technique. This article can help you do exactly that!

The biggest mistake people make when brushing is thinking that swishing their toothbrush around for a mere 45-seconds is good enough. Your mouth may feel cleaner after doing so, but you’re barely putting up a fight, more or less actually preventing plaque and cavities by doing this. Another common mistake is not paying attention to what areas have been cleaned and what ones have barely been skimmed. A study done by Consumer Reports showed that the majority of participants poorly or completely skip brushing their molars in the back of the mouth and the inner surface of the teeth towards the tongue. And according to a follow-up survey conducted by dentists, this is believed to be true for a majority of our population as well.

hygienist brushing teeth model

According to the American Dental Association, you should brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Try finding a song that is approximately 2 minutes long or watch some TV while brushing, so that you don’t cut the time short or get bored. You can also split your mouth into quadrants and spend at least 30 seconds on each section; that way you’re making sure to get all areas thoroughly and brushing for long enough. Position the brush at a 45-degree angle pointed toward the gum line so that one row of the bristle tips can slip slightly under the gums. As mentioned in Toothbrushes and Toothpastes and Mouthwash… Oh My!, use a brush with soft, nylon bristles or even ultrasoft, if you have sensitive gums. Don’t brush too hard as it can cause gum irritation and possibly abrasion. You don’t need much pressure to remove plaque. Move the brush in either a soft circular motion or gently back and forth in short strokes as to mimic a vibrating motion; or try a combination of both to remove plaque and bacteria. Make sure not to miss chewing surfaces of your teeth as well, food particles often get stuck in the crevices of our molars. Brushing your tongue can help remove bacteria and freshen breath, so be sure to get that too.

If you absolutely must skip a brushing session, don’t freak out. It’s okay (if you are brushing correctly, that is). Plaque can take up to 24 hours to form, just don’t make it a habit!

BONUS: Flossing fundamentals!

Flossing is just as important as brushing and should be used hand in hand since it can remove food, plaque and bacteria that a toothbrush can’t reach. When flossing, break off approximately 18 inches of floss. Wind a majority of the floss around a finger or two on one hand, and the remaining on the corresponding finger(s) on the other hand, creating a secure grip. Carefully move the thread between two teeth using a gentle sawing motion up to your gum line; then softly move the floss just slightly under the gums. Next, curve the thread into a “C” semi-around the tooth and sweep it up and down against the side of the tooth. And repeat! As you move to a new tooth, unwind clean floss from your first hand and wrap the used thread to your other hand (and make sure to wash your hands when finished!). You should either brush after or swish with a mouthwash, mouth rinse or water when finished to remove any plaque or particles that were loosened but not discarded while flossing.

Toothbrushes and Toothpastes and Mouthwash… Oh My! A Guide to Dental Care Products


Going down the dental care products aisle at your favorite store can be mind-boggling! Information, advertisements, suggestions and reviews come at you from every which way. What can you believe and what is downright not true? I’m not claiming I can give you all the answers, but here’s some information we found that might help you out when trying to sort through the array of options and decide.

ADA labelIf you only pay attention to one thing when in the market for at-home dental care, make sure it’s if the product is “ADA seal accepted.” A product with the ADA seal on it has been tested by the American Dental Association (ADA) and is scientifically proven safe and effective and will do what it claims to do. Not all products that attempt to get the seal are lucky (or good) enough to obtain it. The seal requires higher standards than what is required by law and it is never sold or used as advertising propaganda. You’d be surprised as to how many products by big name companies don’t have the ADA seal on it.


Most all research stated that many of the features of manual toothbrushes rarely come into play when it comes to effectiveness. The most important aspect is proper brushing technique, so a toothbrush that encourages and makes that easier for you will be your best buy. When considering this, choose a brush with a head that fits comfortably in your mouth, rather than one that’s a bit bulky and stretches your mouth. As well as one with soft-nylon bristles (not medium or hard) or even perhaps ultrasoft if you have sensitive teeth or root exposure. And make sure to choose a tooth brush with a handle that fits comfortably in your hand and enables a firm grip. These are some of the most important things to pay attention to. Whether you want other features in your brush such as bristle shape, handle style and components for tongue cleaning is all up to you. There is a bit of a difference when it comes to choosing between manual or electric, however. A study done by Consumer Reports resulted that manual toothbrushes did as good, if not a better job at removing plaque and cleaning teeth than an electric brush if proper brushing technique was used. However, if one was physically unable or not attentive enough to brush properly and effectively, an electric toothbrush did a better job at cleaning. And studies have shown that a majority of us do not use the proper brushing technique.

Products bearing the ADA accepted seal have been clinically proven to do what they claim. And again, no matter how much you pay or what a toothbrush claims to do, it doesn’t matter if you don’t brush thoroughly and correctly. Check back for one of our next articles, Are You Brushing Correctly?, to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your toothbrush and are not part of the statistic!

To look up and compare toothbrushes that are ADA seal accepted click here.


The biggest differences between toothpastes lies with ingredients. The general ingredient composition of a toothpaste consists of: gentle abrasives (magnesium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides and phosphate salts), anti-drying agents (glycerol, sorbitol, other “humectants”), thickeners (seaweed, mineral colloids, synthetic cellulose, natural gum), flavoring agents (saccharin), foam-creating detergents (sodium lauryl sarcosinate), and fluoride. The ADA suggests that adults and children alike use a toothpaste with fluoride in it and even those with strong, healthy teeth can benefit from fluoride. Toothpastes containing fluoride in them are examined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and required to meet their regulations because they claim to fight disease and tooth decay. Other toothpastes are considered cosmetic and therefore not required to be examined or meet the FDA regulations, so pay a bit closer attention to ensure that it is properly labeled and ingredients are listed.

Most toothpastes today offer a range of benefits in addition to cleaning your teeth which may be appealing to you in your personal at-home dental care; for example, whitening agents, organic ingredients, tartar control, gum irritation and inflammation treatment, just to name a few. And to reiterate, your main focus should be finding a toothpaste that has been tested and accepted by the American Dental Association and bears the ADA seal.

To look up and compare toothpastes that are ADA seal accepted click here.

Mouthwash/Mouth rinses:

A mouth rinse can come in handy when freshening breath and rinsing out plaque and bacteria that was removed from teeth and gums while brushing but not discarded from the oral cavity; but is not as absolutely necessary like brushing and flossing for sound oral care. Using a mouth rinse after eating a meal or snack is also recommended, especially when brushing may not be so convenient. The main difference between a mouthwash and a mouth rinse is whether it is used before or after brushing per the labeled instructions. Washes are primarily used to “wash” out germs and/or particles, used after brushing and sometimes causes a burning sensation because of ingredients like alcohol. While rinses are usually used before brushing with ingredients such as fluoride in it and sometimes the user is advised not to drink or eat 30 minutes after use. And last but not least, make sure the ADA accepted seal is on the mouthwash or rinse label.

To look up and compare mouth rinses that are ADA seal accepted click here.