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    9 Toothbrushing Mistakes -- and How to Fix Them

    By Lindsey Grant
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS

    Admit it -- brushing your teeth is so second-nature you barely think about it. But doing it right is key for a healthy mouth. It can help you avoid problems like cavities and gum disease.

    Sharpen your skills with these easy-to-follow tips:

    1. Choose the Right Tool

    Just any old toothbrush may not be the one for you. Think about the size of your mouth, says Richard H. Price, DMD, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. "If you are straining to open wide enough to let the brush in, the brush is probably too big," he says.

    It should feel good in your mouth and in your hand, so you’ll use it often.

    Know your bristles, too. If they're really stiff, they can hurt your gums. A soft brush is best.

    Electric or manual? "It's an individual preference," says Michael Sesemann, DDS.

    Price agrees. "It's not the toothbrush, it's the brusher."

    Electric toothbrushes can make it easier to do a better job, especially if you have arthritis or other trouble with your hands, arms, or shoulders.

    2. Give It Time

    Are you brushing enough? Twice a day is recommended, but Sesemann says three times a day is best.

    It should take at least 2 minutes each time. He says most of us fall short. He also suggests you divide your mouth into four sections and spend 30 seconds on each. To make the time go faster, Sesemann says he watches TV while he brushes.

    Some electric toothbrushes have built-in timers and can track how you're using it by syncing to your smartphone.

    3. Don’t Overdo It

    Brushing more than three times a day might not be ideal, Sesemann says. That's because too much can wear down your teeth's outer shell, called enamel, and damage your gums.

    Also, “don’t bear down too hard,” he says. “Use a lighter touch.”

    If you use an  electric brush, "you let the bristles do the work and just guide the toothbrush,” Price says.

    Be gentle. It doesn’t take a lot of force to remove plaque, he says.

    1 | 2 | 3

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

    Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


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    Never
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    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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