We all brush our teeth at least twice a day (if you're not, then we need to see you as soon as possible). However, how many of us are relying on brushing techniques that are incorrect and ingrained as bad habits we learned in the past? Can you be sure you're brushing the way that makes the most of each session at the bathroom sink? Not to worry, we have an outline on proper brushing techniques so you can either correct your bad habits or rest easy knowing you're doing things right.
It all starts with a quality, ADA (American Dental Association) approved toothbrush with soft bristles. As we talked about in How Hard Should You Brush Your Teeth, only soft bristles are needed. Some patients assume that harder bristles do a better job of cleaning, but this simply isn't true. Whether you prefer to brush with a manual or electric toothbrush, the basic procedure is the same.
As for toothpaste, make sure to use a fluoride toothpaste, again only those toothpaste brands approved by the ADA. Use roughly a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and brush for two minutes at least two times a day. You'll want to work flossing in at least once a day as well. We recommend flossing at night before you begin your brushing routine. It is helpful to finish your brushing routine with a rinse of fluoride mouthwash to both strengthen teeth and freshen your breath. Once the routine is complete, it is best to avoid drinking or eating anything for 30 minutes to allow the fluoride to set on your teeth.
Once your brush is setup with toothpaste and ready to go, begin with a 45 degree angle as you place the brush to your gum line. This means the bristles should essentially be flush with your gums as you begin. You'll want to begin at or a little above the gum line as it is important to brush both your teeth and gums. Simply brushing your teeth and not touching the gums is the wrong procedure. Start on the top teeth, press the brush gently to your gums and make a downward raking motion from the gum line to the bottom of your teeth. Repeat this process on all of your top teeth. Then reverse the action and do the same to all the inward facing teeth on the top row of teeth.
Moving on, you'll want to shift your attention to the bottom teeth and perform the same gum-to-bottom motion you used on the top teeth. Make sure to reach all the way back to the rear teeth and provide complete coverage with this motion, both in the front and back. Don't forget to brush the back of your rear-most molars as part of the process as well.
Once completed, you'll want to change the angle of the brush so you can brush the top of your teeth. Place the brush so all the bristles lie at a 45 degree angle to the top of the teeth, and make a back and forth motion to clean the areas where your teeth bite into foods. With this change you should be holding the brush handle directly in front of your mouth instead to the side of your cheek. Continuing this motion, move to your front teeth and brush in the same way. Do this for both the top and bottom front teeth. Finally, end by brushing your tongue from the back to front. This will help kill bacteria on the tongue and freshen your breath.
Once you have the basic procedure down, we recommend switching up the order (except for the tongue, you should always finish by brushing the tongue). There is a simple reason for this. We all have a tendency to "check out" on tasks like tooth brushing after we've done them time and time again. This can lead to some complacency, and some patients may end up performing each step of proper brushing techniques faster or less thorough than they did in the past. By switching up the order, we ensure our brain is active in performing all the necessary steps, and this in turn ensures our teeth are thoroughly cleaned each brushing session.
Well did your existing brushing techniques check out, or do you need refresher after all? We recommend actively thinking about your brushing techniques now and then to ensure you're still doing things correctly. If you have questions or don't quite understand the process, we encourage you to schedule a checkup and we'll demonstrate proper brushing techniques for you. Schedule a visit at Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry and keep up those good brushing habits!