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.