Brushing isn’t something that’s often taught in schools. It’s usually something that you figure out on your own based on lessons from your caregivers, or something your dentist (hopefully!) reviews with you at your dental hygiene appointments.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the review regularly. Sometimes it’s not part of your hygienist’s routine, and sometimes they look at your oral hygiene and decide you know what you’re doing. But this simple task is often not completed correctly. And some bad brushing habits can be harmful for your teeth. So it’s always good to review to make sure that you’re giving your teeth the best possible care.
According to the American Dental Association, the 8 most common bad brushing habits include:
1. Not replacing your toothbrush soon enough
You should aim to replace your toothbrush 3-4 times a year – think about replacing it once every season.
The average person visits their dentist every 6 months. So if that’s you, and you get a new toothbrush at each visit, you should be looking to replace your toothbrush on your own twice a year. Look to replace it more often than that if you are sick. The bristles do not remove plaque with time and can harbor bacteria, even if they are cleaned regularly.
2. Not brushing for the full 2 minutes (2 times a day!)
If you’re not brushing long enough, you’re not reaching all of the tooth surfaces. The average person brushes for 45 seconds which is not enough time to adequately clean all of the cheek sides, tongue sides, roof of the mouth sides, chewing side, along the gums, and tongue. Those are a lot of surfaces! If you’re not sure how long that is, ask Siri to set a timer.
3. Brushing too hard
Often this is as a result of not brushing long enough. People often think that if they brush harder, they can brush quicker. Unfortunately, if your toothbrush doesn’t touch a surface, it doesn’t matter how hard you’re brushing. And not only that, but using too much pressure can actually damage your gums leading to gum recession and sensitivity as well as root decay. In addition, aggressive brushing can wear away enamel at a faster rate. You only need a gentle brush for the full 2 minutes.
4. Brushing right after eating
Believe it or not, this is not the optimal time to brush. It’s actually better to leave the bacteria and food on your teeth for 30 minutes to an hour before brushing. The reason is that your enamel is in a weakened state after eating as the pH in your mouth is now acidic (especially after eating foods containing citric acid, such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons). Brushing while your enamel is weakened can actually cause damage to the tooth structure. So if you’re trying to decide if you should brush before or after breakfast on a busy morning, the answer might just be brush before and use a sugar-free gum to remove residual breakfast food if you can’t get to a toothbrush again until lunch.
5. Improperly Storing Your Toothbrush
Sometimes you may think that storing your toothbrush in a small container or a drawer is safer for it than on the counter. However, storing your toothbrush in a closed container will actually allow bacteria to grow faster. What you want to do is store your toothbrush upright where it is not touching anything and in the open air to allow the air to dry the bristles. If you’re concerned about contamination from flushing, always close the toilet lid to keep that bacteria inside and keep your brush as far away as possible from the toilet.
6. Using a HARD toothbrush
These kinds of toothbrushes should either be used to clean tile grout or given to an enemy. While hard toothbrushes may feel like they’re cleaning your teeth better (and, therefore, you can brush for less time), they can cause the same problems we mentioned before with brushing too hard.
A soft toothbrush is usually best.
7. Brushing the wrong way
If you’re just placing your brush perpendicular to your tooth surface, you’re likely brush the part of the tooth that is least likely to get decay and skipping the area by the gums that is more likely to get decay. How you want to brush is to place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your gums. Then, gently move back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. Next, brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Finally, To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
8. Using a brush that’s not best for you
Both manual and electric toothbrushes, if used the right way, are effective at keeping your mouth healthy. Try different styles until you find one that you like the best. It may be one with thin, tall bristles, one with a small brush-head that fits better, or an electric brush that helps with your arthritis.
The best kind of toothbrush is the one that gets used!