How to Brush Your Teeth: There Really is a Right Way

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How to Brush Your Teeth: There Really Is a Right Way

How to Brush Your Teeth: There is Really is a Right Way

Believe it or not, there is a proper way to brush your teeth, supported by science, and it’s not scrubbing as hard as you can with the stiffest brush you can find. It’s old news that brushing your teeth properly can help your mouth be clean and healthy. But did you know brushing the wrong way can be downright harmful? If you aren’t brushing properly, you may be missing bacteria that can attack your teeth and gums, or you may even be damaging your teeth yourself!

Toothbrushes: Manual vs. Electric

How to Brush Your Teeth: There is Really is a Right WayOne of the most common questions patients ask is: “Should I use a manual or electric toothbrush?” According to the ADA, the answer for most people is whichever one you prefer. Both manual and electric toothbrushes are equally effective at removing plaque. However, an electric toothbrush is easier to use for some patients, such as people who have dexterity issues.

If you are going to use a manual toothbrush, it is important you buy a brush with the softest bristles you can find. It turns out that stiff bristles can cause damage over time, wearing away tooth structure and leading to sensitive and weakened teeth. The ADA provides a list of manual toothbrushes that have earned its official endorsement as being safe and effective to use.

It is important to replace your toothbrush (either manual or electric head) every three to four months. This is because bacteria can build up in your toothbrush and the bristles can wear out, making it less effective. Some toothbrushes even come with indicators to let you know when it is time to grab a new one.


How to Use Your Toothbrush

How to Brush Your Teeth: There is Really is a Right WayNo matter what type of toothbrush you use, it is important you brush properly. If you have an electric toothbrush, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Most will tell you not to scrub with the brush, but to instead hold it in place and allow it to do all the work, moving from tooth to tooth.

If you use a manual toothbrush, there is a certain way to brush that will get your teeth the cleanest and reduce abrasion (damage). The fancy name for it is the “Modified Bass Technique,“ but it’s really quite simple:


1. Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. You’re going to clean a small area at a time, two to three teeth.

2. Gently move the bristles under the gum line in tiny strokes. You are trying to free up the plaque that is just below the gums.

3. With a rolling movement, brush from your gum line to the chewing surface of your teeth. Think of it like a paintbrush, taking the plaque away from the gums to the edge of the teeth.

4. Continue around the backs and fronts of all teeth. To get behind your front teeth, turn your brush vertically and use short strokes, from the gums to the edges of the teeth.

5. Finally, scrub the chewing surfaces of all teeth.

The entire process should take about two minutes. You need to brush your teeth at least twice a day. If you have consumed something very acidic, like coffee, wait 30 minutes before brushing.


The Importance of Flossing

Brushing will remove plaque from your teeth, but it does not reach the area in between teeth where cavities frequently occur. If you don’t floss, you may wind up with cavities and even bone loss between your teeth, a condition called “periodontitis.“

Proper flossing can be done using standard string floss or floss picks. The key is to do it consistently and properly. Again, think about what you are trying to accomplish: removing plaque from the tooth surface. As you are flossing, hold the floss so it wraps around the sides of your tooth like the letter C, then move it up and down to remove any gunk. The ADA published a great guide with illustrations to show you how.

Video: How to Floss Your Teeth

Waterpiks Work Well Too

A Waterpik is another way to clean between your teeth. There are many models available on the market today. A Waterpik sprays a jet of water that you can use to clean out food debris and plaque from around your teeth. They also help reduce bacteria levels. This can help improve your oral health, as bacteria is associated with gum problems and cavities.

Video: How to Use a Waterpik

Video: How to Use a Waterpik Without Making a Mess

Modifications for Limited Dexterity

Many patients, both young and old, have difficulty holding on to a toothbrush and/or dental floss. Some helpful solutions include:

  • An electric toothbrush. Its handles tend to be wider and easier to grip, and it requires no scrubbing motion on the part of the user.
  • A modified manual toothbrush. You can add padding to the handle to make it larger and easier to grip. You can alternatively modify a tennis ball and put it onto the end of a toothbrush to make it easier to hold.
  • Having a caregiver or family member help.

Don’t Forget the Dentist

The ADA recommends you go for a cleaning and dental exam at least once a year, or as recommended by your dentist based on your individual needs. The hygienist will do a thorough cleaning. This also gives your dentist a chance to check for any changes to your oral health. If you still have any questions about how to properly brush your teeth, be sure to ask them at your next visit – your dentist will be happy to show you in person!

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