What’s Your Brushing Technique?
What do you consider yourself an expert in? Pop social science author Malcom Gladwell hypothesizes that 10,000 hours–worth of practice in anything can make you an expert. So, if you take that and apply it to tooth-brushing, that means that brushing your teeth for two minutes twice each day for your entire life…will make you an expert when you’re 410 years old.
Therefore, no matter how “good” you think you tooth-brushing skills are, there’s always room for improvement, right? To that end, is there a “correct” way to brush your teeth? Below, we’ll break down the stereotypical types of brushers we see and then reveal the best practices when it comes to brushing your teeth.
One of the most common mistakes we see being made is among patients who rush through brushing. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. Two minutes is much longer than most people realize, and so inevitably we speed through brushing our teeth. Keep a timer near your sink to ensure the you’re brushing for the correct amount of time.
While holding onto products for a long time to ensure you “get your money’s worth” is not a great practice when it comes to your toothbrush. The ADA suggests people should change their toothbrush (or the head on an electric toothbrush) about every three months. After three months, the bristles are starting to show wear and tear. If the bristles are frayed, even on a level you can barely see, they will no longer be able to clean your teeth as well as a new brush.
It’s also important to throw away your toothbrush after an illness—or if it’s just looking dingy. Toothbrushes harbor bacteria and germs, so it’s best to throw it away and start over rather than risk potentially re–infecting yourself with an illness.
The Failed Flosser
Flossing is important for more than just your gums and teeth. Research has shown flossing has an impact on the entire body. The food hiding between your teeth eludes your toothbrush’s bristles, and ultimately harbors bacteria that causes tooth decay.
A recent survey showed that 36% of Americans would rather do something unpleasant—like clean the toilet—then floss their teeth. But brushing without flossing is like taking a shower without soap. Sure you rinsed some of the dirt and grime off, but you didn’t get thoroughly clean. Being a good brusher includes flossing your teeth.
You’re Holding It Wrong…
While you’re going through the motions of brushing your teeth—and even do it for two minutes—you still might be using the wrong motion. The ADA recommends holding the surface of the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the front of your teeth. This angle allows you to massage your gums while you also brush your teeth.
Next, examine the motion you use to run the bristles against your teeth. Some people use a tight, circular motion, while others prefer long, back and forth strokes. Experts recommend using long strokes to ensure all surface areas are covered; however, if you have unique gaps in your teeth or have periodontal implants, your dentist may suggest alternative brushing patterns.
Finally, make sure that you are brushing all parts of your teeth. The means you tackle the front, inner and chewing surfaces of each tooth, and don’t forget your tongue! Your tongue is just as much of a target for bacteria as your teeth are, even if it’s not at risk for developing cavities. These bacteria can lead to bad breath and even tooth damage. Because of this, it’s necessary to physically remove the bacteria by brushing or cleaning.
After reading these “brushing types,” you might have self-identified as one…or several of them. You might think that a new toothbrush itself will make you a better, more productive brusher, or maybe a new specially formulated toothpaste. However, the most effective way to ensure you are brushing your teeth productively is to get a toothbrush that you like (and are committed to using!) and by making proper tooth-brushing a habit. That means not skipping the floss-and-brush routine before bed. Your oral health is important! Don’t skimp out.