Most of us know that you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day to prevent cavities and keep them looking bright and shiny. Unfortunately, not everyone brushes their teeth correctly or long enough for the at-home oral care task to be effective.
Studies have found that people who don’t brush their teeth for at least two minutes at a time have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Conversely, overbrushing is a problem as well and can lead to gum recession and loss of enamel.
Brushing your teeth is certainly important, but you also need to make sure you’re cleaning them correctly. Are you guilty of any of these common tooth brushing mistakes?
1. Using Hard Bristles
There are many kinds of toothbrushes on the market made from various materials and featuring different size brush heads. No matter what your preference, however, you should always choose a brush that specifies it has soft or extra soft bristles on the package.
Bristles need to be pliable enough to reach below the gum line and gently clean the surfaces of your teeth. Firm or hard-bristled toothbrushes can damage tooth enamel and structure and contribute to gum recession. Save any hard bristled toothbrushes in your home for household cleaning jobs instead.
2. Brushing Too Hard
The old term elbow grease should never be applied to brushing teeth. Plaque is a soft substance, and it doesn’t require much physical effort to whisk it away.
Forceful brushing can also cause gums to recede over time and wear away tooth enamel. You also shouldn’t hold your toothbrush too tightly. Go easy when brushing your teeth, using gentle circular motions with the bristles just touching the surface for the most effective cleaning job.
3. Not Changing the Toothbrush or Brush Head Frequently Enough
In 1996, a woman on The Oprah Winfrey Show confessed that she had been using the same toothbrush for 30 years. Although we don’t know what her oral health was like, holding onto your toothbrush for a long period of time is not something we recommend.
Toothbrush bristles don’t last forever, and it’s a good idea to replace your manual toothbrush or the brush head on your electric model every three months. Otherwise, the bristles begin to splay out of place and cannot effectively clean the surfaces of your teeth.
Toothbrush bristles are also teeming with bacteria, and three months is a good time to toss the old brush and use a new one. In the meantime, rinse your brush well with regular tap water and let it air dry (don’t enclose the brush head with a cover) to minimize bacteria.
4. Not Brushing Long Enough
As already mentioned, not brushing long enough can increase the risk of developing heart disease, as studies have found that bacteria in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and affect cardiovascular health. But not brushing long enough means you’re leaving more plaque behind that can cause tooth decay, bad breath, and other oral conditions.
How long should you brush? Dentists generally recommend at least two to three minutes to make sure you’re reaching all areas of your teeth. Set the timer on your phone for that amount of time or play your favorite song while you brush to ensure you’re doing it long enough.
Experiment with different fluoride and charcoal toothpastes until you find a favorite with a taste and consistency you like; this will encourage you to brush regularly and long enough. Cleaning your teeth should be just as enjoyable as washing your hair with a pleasant-smelling shampoo or taking a shower.
5. Not Getting Below the Gumline
In addition to flossing daily, you want to make sure your toothbrush is sweeping away the plague and bacteria that lurk just below the gum line. This is why dentists and hygienists advise holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle so the bristles can gently reach under the one millimeter at the top of the gum line.
The more plague you can clean away regularly, the more you can help prevent decay and gingivitis from developing.
6. Not Using an Angled Toothbrush
Angled toothbrushes are designed that way to make it easier to reach molars in the back of your mouth and clean the surfaces of all your teeth. Straight toothbrushes may not reach all of your teeth as effectively.
7. Not Paying Attention
It’s easy to let your mind wander when you’re brushing your teeth, especially as it’s a routine task. But you still need to pay attention to make sure you’re holding the brush correctly and using the proper motion while brushing your teeth.
8. Failing to Floss
Even if you’re the best brusher in the world, all of your efforts can be counterproductive if you’re failing to floss your teeth daily. Flossing is essential for keeping gums healthy and preventing cavities from forming in between teeth where your brush can’t reach.
So is it better to floss before or after you brush your teeth? At least one study found that plague removal was more effective when people flossed before brushing. Flossing first dislodges food particles which brushing can then clean away.
We Can Determine If You’re Overbrushing or Making Other Brushing Mistakes
Now you know some common mistakes people make when they brush their teeth and why it’s important to avoid them including overbrushing. Brushing and flossing aren’t enough to keep your smile bright and healthy — you should also be visiting a dentist every six months.
Here at Pennino Family Dentistry, we can tell you if you’re brushing your teeth correctly when you schedule a check-up and cleaning with our caring staff. Contact us to make an appointment.