If you’re like most people, brushing your teeth is simply a mundane task you faithfully perform every day so that you (insert witty quip about saving all of humanity from yourself here) and try to avoid cavities and infamous gum diseases featured in Colgate or Listerine commercials. Maybe hardly a thought is given about the process anymore because brushing your teeth has been part of your daily ritual for almost as long as you’ve been alive. It’s no hidden secret that brushing your teeth is essential for good oral hygiene, but doing it right is equally, if not more, important.
Even if you aren’t an expert on dental care, you know that the first thing you need in order to brush your teeth is a good toothbrush. Many people assume that electric toothbrushes clean more efficiently than manual ones, but with proper brushing techniques, it’s possible to manually clean your teeth just as well without spending more money for an electric toothbrush. Most, if not all, dentists will agree that you will need a soft-bristled toothbrush, but soft bristles aside, toothbrushes can be to your preference. Though it is the hardest substance in the human body, the protective enamel coating your teeth can wear away over time if medium or hard-bristled toothbrushes are used. Tooth enamel does not grow back. This is one reason why it is so important to use the right tools and techniques to safely, yet effectively, brush your teeth.
Another necessary component to brushing your teeth is toothpaste. When choosing any toothpaste, fluoride is the most important active ingredient to look for on the label because that is what fights off tooth decay. It is always safest to find dental products with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, but aside from that, toothpastes can and should be chosen to cater to your specific needs. This may include, but is not limited to, sensitive teeth, teeth whitening, gingivitis prevention, cavity protection, plaque prevention, tartar control, long-lasting fresh breath, etc. Various toothpastes might even be chosen for their flavor, texture, or form.
Once you have both toothbrush and toothpaste, you are ready to get started. First, quickly wet your toothbrush and gargle some water. The added moisture on the brush and in your mouth will keep the tips of the bristles from tearing and damaging your gums. Next, squeeze some toothpaste onto the moistened bristles. A pea-sized amount is most commonly recommended, but for a good lather, squeeze out approximately a pea and a half to two peas’-worth of toothpaste. For even coverage on the brush, use the tip of your finger to smooth the toothpaste across the bristles. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you do this, excess toothpaste will not slide down your gums in globs when you begin to brush.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), the average person only brushes for 45-70 seconds per day. If you are one of these people, boo for you! Most dentists recommend brushing for 2.5-4 minutes, twice a day at bare minimum, to efficiently remove plaque. Whenever possible, brush your teeth after each meal. If you have an MP3 device, a stereo, or a radio available, I suggest brushing for the duration of one song. This way, it is easier to develop the habit of brushing your teeth for a longer period of time.
Starting toward the back molars, use gentle, angled strokes to begin the cleaning process. Not a lot of pressure is necessary to effectively brush your teeth. If too much pressure is used, it can fray the toothbrush bristles prematurely, sending you to the nearest convenience store to buy a new toothbrush before its suggested