Are You Brushing Your Teeth Properly?

Proper teeth brushing is incredibly important to your oral health.You have probably been brushing your teeth for as long as you remember, but have you been doing it the correct way? Sometimes we are so tired or in such a hurry that it becomes easy to miss some tooth surface or crevasse while we brush. Over time those brushing sessions that lack thoroughness may become a new habit of improper care. Below we cover the ins and outs of brushing your teeth properly from the best toothbrush to proper technique.


What You Should Look for in a Toothbrush

Seems simple, right? Walk down the toothbrush aisle at your local drug store, grab a toothbrush and be on your way… but there’s more to it than that. Should you buy manual or electric? Hard or soft bristles? Large head or small head? Keep reading to find out!

1. Manual Toothbrush or Electric Toothbrush

This primarily comes down to preference and physical ability. For someone who lacks range of motion in their hands and arms, a battery-operated or electric toothbrush will help attain more thorough brushing. The electronic head spins to help brush along the tooth surface and gum line in a way you may not be able to maneuver your hand, wrist or arm manually.

Another large benefit to an electric toothbrush is that it notifies you through a vibration, beep or flashing light as to when two minutes is up, which is the recommended brush time twice daily. Some electric toothbrushes even have Bluetooth technology and connect to an app on your mobile device to help guide each brushing session. If using a manual toothbrush, just make sure you’re getting in the full two minutes of thorough brushing.

Have you ever been told by your dentist that you’re brushing your teeth too hard? You may benefit from an electric toothbrush. Some electric toothbrushes have a sensor that lets you know when you’re applying too much pressure. This is a good reminder to lighten up on the pressure while still focusing on thoroughness.

Otherwise, the choice between a manual or electric toothbrush comes down to preference. You may brush with the proper pressure and have an established system to track your brushing time so feel a manual toothbrush serves you well, and this is totally fine (as long as your dentist agrees!)


2. Soft Bristles or Stiff Bristles

Soft-bristled toothbrushes tend to come more highly recommended for general oral care. And they should be perfectly sufficient if you’re brushing properly for two full minutes. There are also medium-bristled and stiff-bristled toothbrushes, but chances are these options could end up being too rigorous on your teeth and gums unless recommended by your dentist to maintain your individual oral care. So, if you’re on the fence about which one to buy, go with soft bristles—your tooth enamel and gum tissue will thank you.


3. Small Toothbrush Head or Large Toothbrush Head

Yet another option: small or large. It’s easy to think the large, stiff-bristled toothbrush is the best pick to rid your teeth, gums and tongue of plaque and bacteria, but it’s the opposite. A small toothbrush head will allow you to reach smaller areas within your mouth and reach the harder crevasses that a large-headed toothbrush may not be able to squeeze into, especially in the back of your mouth around your molars. Yes, a larger toothbrush head may cover more territory with each pass, but this isn’t worth the risk of unwanted plaque having the chance to build up where only a small toothbrush head may fit.

What You Should Look for in a Toothpaste

Another component to proper teeth brushing includes using toothpaste that is best for your oral health, and this will vary person to person.

The one ingredient everyone needs is fluoride (with the exception of young children—be sure to check with your dentist or pediatrician). This is rather universal as fluoride is essential for overall oral health. When choosing the right toothpaste, make sure it has the American Dental Association (ADA) label on it because that means the product has the appropriate amount of fluoride, and has been tested to honor such.

1. Sensitivity?

There is a plethora of toothpastes that target individuals with tooth sensitivity. The most common and safest ingredient (as rated by the Environmental Working Group) for tooth sensitivity is potassium nitrate. A close second is stannous fluoride (EWG). These ingredients added to toothpaste help develop a resistance to triggers of sensitivity, like hot and cold foods and beverages, over time. Over-the-counter options are proven to help people with tooth sensitivity, but if you’re feeling you need more, chat with your dentist about a prescription option.

2. Whitening?

Many brands have a whitening toothpaste option if you’re feeling you would benefit from a whiter smile.


Toothpaste products that are specific to whitening teeth will tend to be more abrasive than toothpaste that is not. Simply because they contain a chemical component, often hydrogen peroxide based, that’s designed to help remove stains from the outer surface of your tooth, the enamel. Err on the side of caution if you experience sensitivity because whitening toothpaste could make matters a little worse. Overall, with long-term use of a whitening toothpaste you’ll notice less tooth staining. If you want to amp it up a notch, add a whitening gel to your preferred toothpaste for an extra bump of whitening power. Of course, chat with your dentist about what whitening products would be best for your individual oral care.

3. Tartar?

If you feel like tartar builds up easily on your teeth, try a tartar control toothpaste. Tartar builds when plaque is left behind on the teeth and hardens. It then becomes harder to remove which is why biannual teeth cleanings are very important. If the tartar is left, overtime you may face issues with periodontal disease. Tartar control toothpaste contains ingredients which prolong the length of time it takes for plaque to harden, giving you more time for thorough brushing; and they also contain more abrasive components to aid in plaque removal while brushing. If you think this type of toothpaste will help you stay ahead of tartar, try one out.


How Often You Should Brush Your Teeth

The ADA advises brushing your teeth at least twice daily, morning and night, for two full minutes each session. It’s recommended that you don’t eat or drink for 60 minutes after brushing so that the fluoride in your toothpaste has time to remain on your teeth. Brushing alone is not enough, however. Flossing once daily, typically in the evening, will help remove buildup between your teeth that the toothbrush alone may not be able to wiggle out.

Proper Teeth Brushing Techniques

It may be helpful to watch a video or look at a diagram, both which can be viewed by the provided links as displayed from the American Dental Association. The ADA states that proper tooth brushing involves tilting your toothbrush to a 45° angle with your gum line and gently brushing back and forth in short, gentle strokes.

Remember not to apply too much pressure because this could cause excessive wear on your teeth and gums over time. Brush the outer surface, the chewing surface and the inner surface of each tooth, in small sections. You’ll find it helpful to turn your toothbrush vertically to better clean the backside of your front teeth, on top and bottom, by moving it up and down. After you’ve brushed for two full minutes, brush the top surface of your tongue to remove bacteria that could cause bad breath. After two to three months, or when your toothbrush is looking a bit frayed, you know it’s time for a new one.

Proper oral care will benefit you in so many ways. If your teeth are in their best health, you’ll want to flash a big smile to everyone, which will surely make you feel great. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled, small headed toothbrush, manual or electric. Brush with a toothpaste that benefits your individual needs. Brush properly and thoroughly for two full minutes. Floss once a day to discourage plaque buildup between your teeth. Visit your dentist two times a year. There you have it—happy smiling!