You’d think that doing something twice a day, every day, for our entire lives would make most of us experts at that thing. But when it comes to oral hygiene, your years of experience still don’t make you an expert. In fact, most people aren’t doing as good of a job at brushing their teeth as they should. Here are a few ways you’re probably brushing your teeth wrong.
Using the Wrong Toothbrush
The tools you use to brush your teeth are just as important as the process! If you’re using the wrong toothbrush, you could be doing more harm to your teeth than good. For example, if your toothbrush has very stiff bristles, you may actually be damaging your enamel. Instead, opt for a toothbrush with soft bristles. They’re just as effective at removing plaque (it’s about as soft as yogurt — no need to scrub!) and they’re much gentler on your teeth.
Speaking of buying a toothbrush, when was the last time you replaced yours? When your toothbrush becomes worn down and the bristles get bent out of shape, it isn’t as effective at getting into the nooks and crannies of your teeth. You should replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or as often as it begins to show visible signs of wear. Also, if your bristles tend to bend before those three months are up, you may be brushing too hard, which is not bad for your teeth and gums.
Not Brushing Everywhere
If you just brush your front teeth and then give a vigorous once-over to the back molars, you probably aren’t doing much good. It’s important to brush all the surfaces of your teeth, including the backs, to make sure you’re plaque-free. If you go into autopilot mode whenever you brush your teeth, you’re probably not doing a very thorough job, which can increase the likelihood that you’ll need fillings on those back teeth. Next time you brush, take the time to think about which areas of your mouth you’ve gone over, and make sure you hit them all.
Of course, it isn’t just your teeth that should be brushed. Brushing your tongue can help your mouth feel fresher and prevent bad breath.
Getting the Timing Wrong
Even if you’re brushing your teeth properly, if you aren’t doing it twice a day, it’s not enough. You should brush your teeth in the morning after you wake up and in the evening before bed every single day. Frequent brushing will prevent plaque, which you can remove at home, from hardening into tartar (also called calculus), which only your dentist can deal with.
Timing also means making sure that you’re brushing for long enough. Most experts agree that two minutes is the ideal amount of time to brush for — thirty seconds for each quadrant of your mouth. Setting a timer can help you ensure that you’re not rushing through this important oral health task each day. Or you can sing the alphabet song four times, the Jeopardy! song four times, or a mixture of them. Most electric toothbrushes have handy timers that help you keep on track, too.
If you’re not sure if you’re doing your best work keeping your teeth healthy, you might want to ask your dentist about it at your next checkup and cleaning. They can give you more guidance on where you’re succeeding and where you’re falling short.