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Toothbrushing Mistake No. 5: Not Brushing Correctly

''Long horizontal strokes along the gumline can lead to abrasions," says Sesemann. "Aim your bristles at the gum line at a 45-degree angle and do short strokes or vibrations." Softly brush up and down your teeth, not across your teeth. The strokes should be vertical or circular, not horizontal.

Be sure to brush outer and inner tooth surfaces, the chewing surfaces, and your tongue.

Toothbrushing Mistake No. 6: Starting in the Same Place Each Time

Many people start brushing the same part of their mouth over and over, dentists find.

"Start in a different place so that you don't get lazy in the same area of your mouth," says Price. He reasons that by the time you get to the last quadrant of your mouth, you're bored with brushing.

Toothbrushing Mistake No. 7: Skipping Inner Tooth Surfaces

Most people forget to brush the inner surfaces of teeth -- the surface that your tongue presses against.

"The plaque you can't see is just as important to remove as the plaque you can see," says Price.  

The most commonly skipped area, dentists say, is the inner surface of the lower front teeth.

Toothbrushing Mistake No. 8: Not Following Up With a Rinse

Bacteria can grow on an un-rinsed toothbrush. Then, the next time you brush your teeth, you may actually put old bacteria back in your mouth, says Laurence Rifkin, DDS, a dentist in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rinsing the toothbrush after you brush will help remove any leftover toothpaste, too.

Toothbrushing Mistake No. 9: Not Letting the Toothbrush Dry

"If you have a toothbrush that's perpetually moist, it will cultivate more bacteria," says Sesemann.

"If the bristles stay soggy, you can misshape them as you use the brush," Price says. "Or it might be a breeding ground for bacteria."

It's a good idea to shake out the moisture, then recap it with a cap that allows air in, he says.

Toothbrushing Mistake No. 10: Not Changing the Toothbrush Often Enough

The American Dental Association recommends getting a new brush every three or four months, or even sooner if the bristles look frayed.

But rather than go by a strict timeline, Price says a visual inspection of the bristles is better. "Once the bristles lose their normal flexibility and start to break apart, change your toothbrush," he says.

"Look more at the state of the bristles than the time period," he says.

Some brushes have colored indicators that alert you when they need replacing, says Price.

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