How to Properly Brush Your Teeth

woman brushing teeth looking in the mirror

You might be brushing your teeth twice a day already, but do you know how to properly brush your teeth? A lot of people think that they do, but they’re actually doing it wrong.

When you brush your teeth incorrectly, it can damage your gums or lead to tooth decay or extra tartar buildup behind your front teeth. Although I’m a big advocate of electric toothbrushes, most people still use a manual brush. If so, this toothbrushing guide is for you!

Proper Brushing Technique 

  • angle the bristles at 45 degree angle towards your gums
  • apply gentle pressure (not too rough!)
  • make small circular strokes, (not back and forth)
  • repeat the process across the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of all your teeth
  • brush for at least two minutes, twice per day
  • use a pea-sized glob of fluoride toothpaste

How Long Should You Brush Your Teeth For?

The American Dental Association[1] recommends you brush your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day, with a soft bristled toothbrush. Every time you brush, make sure to brush the inner, outer, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. Follow proper brushing technique and the 2/2 rule for a happy and healthy smile! (2 minutes, 2 times per day)

Technically, when it comes down to how to properly brush your teeth, you want to be spending at least two minutes. If you time yourself, you’re probably not even doing half of that. Most people only brush for about 30-45 seconds!

If you don’t spend the time you need to get your clean teeth properly, that plaque and tartar buildup will start to catch up with you and cause tooth decay.

Common Mistakes When Brushing Your Teeth

1) User Error

All you need to do is position your toothbrush 45-degrees towards your gums and brush those teeth for a few seconds, then move to the next tooth. If you’re prone to scrubbing too hard, then an electric toothbrush could help you break that bad habit!

*Electric toothbrushes do all of the work for you. In fact, research studies show they remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes do. That’s probably because they’re moving thousands of times more than your manual brush (plus you get ultrasonic action going on.) I recommend getting started with a BURST Sonic Toothbrush

The video below shows the proper way of brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush..

2) Don’t Scrub Too Hard! 

Scrubbing your teeth hard is NOT good for them. When it comes down to how to properly brush your teeth, you should only be using just enough pressure to gently massage the gums. Nothing more.

If you scrub hard or use a medium to hard bristle toothbrush, you can actually cause gum recession or wear the tooth enamel away (something we call cervical abrasion.)

Both of those conditions can pose some pretty significant challenges to your smile, so just resist the temptation to scrub. If you’re having a hard time breaking the habit, try taking a finger or two off of your toothbrush when you’re holding it.

The video below shows the importance of always using a soft-bristled brush.  

3) Replace Your Toothbrush

Change your toothbrush out every three months, or more often if you’ve been sick. You probably already get a new toothbrush every time you get your teeth cleaned (which should be every six months) so you just need to replace it halfway between your checkups.

If you use an electric toothbrush, change the replaceable brush heads out every 3-4 months as well. Some brush brands even let you do a subscription service where it’s mailed to you without having to think about it. If you're just getting over being sick, it's safe to say to get rid of that toothbrush and get a new one. 

4) Don’t Forget About The Gum Line

Tooth brushing isn’t just about cleaning your teeth. You need to be spending just as much (if not more) attention on your gum line. Since the edges of your gums tend to collect the most plaque buildup, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is essential to preventing and reversing gingivitis.

Just remember: brushing won’t clean between your teeth or further under your gums than about a millimeter, so you still need to be using floss, a water flosser, and/or an interdental pick. When your gums are healthy, your teeth will be healthier too! 

5) Not Brushing Your Teeth Long Enough

Set a timer, listen to a song on the radio, use your watch, but whatever you do: brush for at least two minutes twice per day. If you brush too quickly, you’re more prone to scrub-brush everywhere, causing the bristles to flex and not work correctly.

Take your time, spending 30 seconds per quadrant (upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left) of your mouth. Not just the front teeth, remember to get the back side too. The added bonus of using an electric toothbrush is that a lot of models have timers built-in. They’ll even beep at you when it’s time to move to the next quadrant.

6) Don’t Forget About Brushing Your Tongue

Brushing your tongue is a very important part of oral hygiene! 90% of the bacteria in your mouth that are responsible for bad breath are hiding on your tongue. So, your mouth isn’t going to be fully fresh and clean until you brush your tongue too!  Start at the back and brush towards the front (tip) or buy a tongue scraper. You’ll be shocked when you see what comes off!

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