Brushing your teeth properly is an essential part of keeping a healthy mouth. This might seem obvious but surprisingly most people are still not brushing enough or they are doing it wrong. Maybe because we’ve been doing it our whole lives we think we have nothing to learn when it comes to brushing our teeth, an assumption which can have terrible consequences since not brushing our teeth properly is one of the main reasons for cavities, gum disease, bad breath and other oral care related issues.
Believe it or not commercials have a lot to do in why we don’t brush our teeth properly. In an effort to try to make something which is personal and let’s face it, not really that sexy, look appealing and cool, TV ads take some liberties which the audience can easily mistake for how they should be brushing their teeth, when what they are actually doing is making their brushing less efficient and even harming their teeth and gums.
So even if you think you are already brushing your teeth right (which will hopefully be the case), let’s take a look at what we should be doing when we brush our teeth.
Pick the right tooth brush
First things first, you need to pick the right tool for the job. You could be brushing three times a day but if you are using the wrong brush you might not be removing all the plaque and bacteria from your teeth.
As far as picking an electric or manual toothbrush, the truth is it’s up to you. A manual toothbrush can be just as effective as an electric one if you know how to use it properly.
Next thing you need to consider is the size of the brush. In this case bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, in fact a larger toothbrush is more likely to be less effective since it will be harder for you to reach all your tooth from different angles, especially the rear ones. The head of your toothbrush should be small enough to reach all your teeth with ease.
The handle of your brush is also important. It should fit comfortably on your hand and allow you to maneuver it with precision.
Last thing you want to consider is the hardness of your toothbrush’s bristles. Harder brushes are more aggressive removing the dirt from your mouth but can also hurt your gums if you don’t use them properly. In most cases a medium strength brush is recommended as they find a good balance between effectiveness and safety for your gums and enamel. Even soft brushes can be very effective if used properly and regularly and are recommended if you have a history of teeth and/or gums sensitivity.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should be replacing your toothbrush regularly to ensure your brushing remains effective. How long a toothbrush will last in good conditions will depend a lot on the person using it and the pressure they apply when brushing their teeth. A general rule of thumb could be that you need to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. However if you see that the bristles start to splay out and lose their original shape you should replace it earlier than that.
Use the right tooth paste
Although it’s really your toothbrush that’s cleaning your teeth, using a toothpaste can also help us target other specific issues while also providing a fresh feeling to our mouth after each brush.
There are toothpastes that target all sort of dental issues such as the prevention of cavities, tartar, gingivitis, sensitivity… there are even toothpastes which will help you regain the natural color of your teeth or even whiten them beyond that to a brighter shade.
Pick the paste that you feel targets what you need most and use it with every time you brush your teeth. Remember though to only use a small amount of toothpaste as using too much might prevent the brush from actually doing its job. What you see in TV ads were people apply paste from one end of the brush to the opposite is definitely too much!
Floss your teeth first
No matter how good your toothbrush is, or how thoroughly you brush with it, there will always be built up plaque and food particles which you won’t be able to remove. That’s why flossing before brushing your teeth is almost as important as the brushing itself. Flossing will loosen up food particles that remain in between your teeth so that the brush can then pick them up and remove them completely.
When using dental floss you should remember to use it gently. Be careful when “snapping” the floss between your teeth as you can hurt your gums and make them bleed.
Once you’ve placed the dental floss in between your teeth easy it down gently, moving it back and forth and following the curve of your teeth.
The brushing technique
- Things like being a righty or a lefty can affect which parts of our mouth we spend more time brushing. There will be a side of your mouth which will be more comfortable to brush than the other and we have a tendency to spend more time on that side and overlook the other, which is why most righties usually get cavities on the right side of their moth while lefties get them on the left side.To avoid this divide your mouth into 4 quarters, top-left, top-right, bottom-left and bottom-right and try to spend the same amount of time brushing each quarter. Use a clock or a timer to make sure you are not spending more or less time that you should in each quarter.
Overall you should brush for about 2-3 minutes, spending 30 to 45 seconds on each quarter of your mouth.
- When brushing your front teeth always brush away from your gums and never towards them. If you brush towards your gums you might push them up (for your top teeth) or down (for you bottom teeth) exposing parts of the tooth which should be normally covered and can be extremely sensitive.To make sure you are not pushing your gums place your toothbrush gently on your gums and brush down (for your top teeth) or down (for you bottom teeth), lift your brush and repeat. Never brush up and down.
Also remember that your front teeth also have a back side, even if we never see it. Remember to brush it too and to be just as thorough as you’ll be with the front side.
- When brushing your molars you should thing of them as having three sides, the outer side, the inner side and the top, and be sure to brush them all.To brush the top of your molars simply place your brush on top of them and brush in and out.
To brush the outer side you should close your mouth until your upper and lower teeth make contact, place your brush in the space between the outside of your molars and the interior wall of your mouth with the bristles facing your molars and brush using a circular motion ranging from your lower molars to your upper molars.
Your molar gums are stronger than your front teeth gums, however if I you feel like this technique is too aggressive or is causing your any sort of sensitivity you can use for your molars the same technique you use for your front teeth. Simply open your mouth wide, place your brush gently on top of your gums and brush away from your gums, down for your top molars and up for your lower ones.
Brushing the inside of your molars can be tricky, as they are harder to reach. In order to brush them open your mouth wide and brush them like you would your front teeth, always away from your gums. If you find it hard to do this you can turn to a more back and forth motion like the one you applied when brushing the top of your molars. Be careful though not to apply to much pressure as you will be rubbing your brush not only against your molars but against your gums too.
- Next you should brush your tong, which is something a lot of people forget or find weird. The truth is the plaque that builds up on our tong is the main cause for bad breath and halitosis, and keeping it clean will make the fresh feeling you get after brushing your teeth last much longer.You can brush your tong gently with your regular toothbrush or you can use a different brush which is specially designed for this task. If you don’t have a case of bad breath then the regular toothbrush should be more than enough, otherwise try the special brush, you won’t be disappointed!
- Last but not least, rinse your mouth with water to get rid of any remains of toothpaste in your mouth. Simply take sip of water, swish it around your mouth and spit it out.Rinsing with a fluoride-bases mouthwash is optional. If you decide to use a mouthwash follow the same steps, take a sip of mouthwash, swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds and spit it out.
Your teeth are now shiny and clean, but you are not done just yet. Remember to also rinse your toothbrush with water for a few seconds to remove the toothpaste and bacteria that was picked up while brushing. After rinsing it place your brush somewhere where it’ll be able to dry properly, otherwise bacteria can grow in it transferring to your mouth next time you brush.