9 Toothbrushing Mistakes -- and How to Fix Them
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.