Brushing your teeth long enough every day is important to make sure you’re thoroughly cleaning all of the plaque off. Plus, it can truly pay off for both your oral and overall health. Keeping up with your brushing routine—and knowing how to brush correctly—will reduce your risk of developing cavities and gum disease. Prevention is key when it comes to your dental health, and most of it takes place at home, between your dental checkups.
You may think brushing your teeth at least once a day will do the job well enough, but you, my friend, are mistaken. The American Dental Association and The American Dental Hygienists Association recommend that you brush AT LEAST twice a day for a full two minutes each time. To make those four total minutes effective enough, you also need to use the proper brushing technique.
By brushing your teeth at least twice daily, you’re disrupting the bacteria from continuously accumulating along your teeth and gums. You see, within about 8-12 hours, plaque bacteria can begin to calcify into calculus or dental tartar. By brushing twice during the day, you disrupt this calcification process and reduce the number of bacteria that are sitting on your teeth and building up underneath your gums. When you brush first thing in the morning, you remove bacteria that has built up overnight while you sleep. And then when you brush right before bed, it removes all the bacteria and food that built up during your day.
As the standard of care, dental providers recommend brushing for a minimum of two minutes. The two minutes are based on the four “quadrants” of your mouth. These include the upper right, upper left, lower left, and lower right teeth. Each quadrant is split between the two front teeth on your top and bottom jaw. Brush each quadrant for at least 30 seconds.
Today, a lot of electric toothbrushes will have built-in timers to help you keep track of how long you have been brushing; some even have 30-second interval signals to help you know how long to brush each quadrant of your mouth.
The most commonly recommended tooth brushing technique is known as the “Bass brushing method.” This method focuses on removing plaque bacteria from your teeth and your gumline while also stimulating your gum tissues. Since the gumline areas harbor most of the plaque, they need to be cleaned thoroughly to lower your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Brushing properly calls for tilting your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gumline. Brush strokes should use gentle pressure in a back-and-forth motion that encompasses one or two teeth at a time, ending with a sweeping action towards the chewing surface of the tooth. Follow with brushing the chewing surfaces. If you have an electric toothbrush, let the bristle do the work for you!
I recommend an electric toothbrush to most of my patients because of their effectiveness in removing dental plaque. Whether it's an electric or manual toothbrush, what matters most is the technique.
You should only be using soft or extra-soft bristles when brushing your teeth, no matter the type of toothbrush you prefer. Electric toothbrushes, manual, or pediatric all should have soft bristles. Soft bristles work best to properly remove plaque bacteria from your tooth surface without causing harm to your teeth and gums.
Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes can cause gum recession, tissue trauma, and even notches in your tooth enamel. Don’t brush too aggressively!
While mechanically removing plaque and soft debris from your teeth is important, it’s also important to know what type of toothpaste is best for your teeth. Always use a fluoride or hydroxyapatite-based toothpaste to ensure you are providing your teeth with extra strength and protection against tooth decay. If you suffer from tooth decay, you can add a fluoride mouthwash to your dental hygiene routine.
Remember to use dental floss along with brushing your teeth! Dental floss helps remove tiny bits of food stuck between your teeth that brushing might miss. It's super important for keeping your smile healthy and preventing cavities and gum problems. So, don't forget to floss regularly to get rid of those little food particles and keep your dental hygiene routine in great shape!
For infants that don’t have teeth yet, it's still important to establish good oral hygiene as early as possible. Infants that do not have any teeth should have their gums gently wiped twice a day with a clean, soft cloth. Ideally, this is in the morning when they wake up and right before they go to sleep. If they are nursing or drinking formula, you can gently wipe their gums after feedings. This reduces bacteria in their mouth and prepares them for future toothbrushing.
Once your baby gets their first tooth, start cleaning their tooth with a baby-sized toothbrush and a rice-grain smear of fluoride toothpaste. Once children can rinse and spit the toothpaste out, increase the amount to a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste.
Children will continue to need assistance brushing their teeth until they can tie their own shoes. This can differ slightly for all kids, so it is recommended for caregivers to double-check and help as needed.
If you skip brushing for the recommended length of time or frequency, your risk of dental disease increases significantly. Both in regard to cavities as well as periodontal infections. Plaque that is left to sit on your teeth for too long will lead to enamel demineralization and gum infections, which eventually cause cavities and gum disease.
Cavities are bacterial infections that will continue to spread, leading to more expensive treatments if you don’t address them early. Periodontal or gum disease will eventually lead to bone and tooth loss, not to mention strain your immune system. Poor dental health doesn’t just affect your smile, it can also increase your risk of heart disease, pneumonia, and dozens of other health conditions.
Brushing twice a day for two minutes is the standard recommendation for all ages. It's important to note that this is a standard based on the general population. There may be differing recommendations for different oral health circumstances, such as people who have braces or “weak” teeth.
For people who tend to get a lot of plaque buildup or have a high cavity risk, brushing more than twice daily is beneficial. As always, talk to your dental provider about your brushing habits to make sure you’re on the right track. Brushing can save you time, money, and pain when it comes to dental needs. Brush for two minutes twice a day, and you will never regret it!
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