That might seem so obvious that it’s not worth saying, but you’d be surprised how many basic mistakes people make when it comes to their toothbrushes. We want to make sure our patients will get the most out of their best teeth-cleaning tools!
Look at your toothbrush. Are the bristles frayed or bent? Are some missing? You might be well overdue for a replacement toothbrush. The American Dental Association recommends that we replace our toothbrushes at least three times a year, because old, worn-out bristles can’t do a very effective job of cleaning teeth.
As often as dentists everywhere remind patients to brush for two full minutes, the average is only about 45 seconds. This simply isn’t long enough to get the full cleaning effect. The repeated motions are what clear plaque and food particles away, and we shouldn’t be skimping on that. We encourage our patients to help move that average closer to the recommended two minutes! Playing a song or setting a timer are great ways to keep track of the time.
When we’re cleaning grout out of the tiles in the kitchen, it often requires a little elbow grease. We understand how some people might get the idea that it’s the same with teeth and gums, but that’s simply not true. Brushing hard or using a firm-bristled brush can actually result in gum recession over time. We recommend soft bristles and a gentle hand. Brushing harder does not mean brushing better!
One of the most common mistakes people make with brushing is to do so immediately after a meal. This isn’t a great idea, because the acids in our food and drink temporarily weaken our tooth enamel. If we brush then, we can accidentally cause enamel erosion. That’s why waiting at least half an hour to brush is a good idea; it gives our saliva enough time to neutralize the acid and begin the remineralization process.
If your toothbrush carries a funky smell, it could be because you aren’t giving it a chance to fully dry between uses. To keep a toothbrush fresh and devoid of moisture-loving bacteria, we should always store our toothbrushes upright and give them enough air flow to dry out. No more toothbrush covers! (And also keep them as far from the toilet as possible.)
Even brushing twice a day for the full two minutes with a soft-bristled brush that you store correctly won’t be able to fully offset poor brushing technique. Keep in mind that the goal is to get plaque and food particles out of the gumline. Hold the brush at a 45° angle to your gums and gently sweep it in circular motions. Get each area of the mouth at least fifteen times, both on the outside and the tongue side, as well as the chewing surfaces.
If you’d like any more tips about how to get the most out of your toothbrush, whether you’re looking for technique pointers or recommendations on the best toothbrush for you, we’re happy to help. And don’t forget to floss each day too!
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.