Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, per the recommendation of the American Dental Association (ADA), is an excellent start to preventing cavities and gum disease. However, using improper brushing techniques can offset the benefits of your efforts. Bad habits like brushing too hard, using the wrong toothbrush, and even brushing too soon after a meal can all result in long-term damage to your teeth and gums.
A professional dentist can check on the results of your efforts to maintain a long-lasting healthy smile. The expert team at Union Square Dental, located in the Flatiron District of New York City, provides comprehensive dental checkups that include teeth cleanings and thorough examinations. A schedule of twice-yearly examinations can assess the results of your at-home program and identify problems before they become serious complications.
During these routine visits, your Union Square Dental provider also reviews proper brushing techniques. Below, our experts offer a brush-up.
Here are 5 ways you may be brushing your teeth incorrectly.
#1 Using the wrong toothbrush
You’ll get the best results from your daily brushing when you use the right toothbrush. It’s essential to choose a toothbrush with a head that fits comfortably in your mouth so that you can reach all your teeth easily.
Whether you use a manual or electric version, the bristles on your toothbrush can become matted or frayed over time and lose their effectiveness. Replace your toothbrush or an electric toothbrush’s head, every three to four months to ensure maximum cleaning power.
#2 Brushing with an incorrect technique
If you’re taking the time to brush twice daily, it’s important to use the proper technique to get the benefits of regular brushing. The ADA recommends that you start by positioning your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
The correct technique includes brushing with a gentle back-and-forth motion, in short strokes, not wider than the width of a tooth. Don’t brush back and forth across the width of your mouth with sweeping strokes.
Cover all the surfaces of your teeth as you move around your mouth. This includes the inner surfaces, outer surfaces, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. To clean the inside surfaces, position your toothbrush vertically and tilt it against your teeth. Brush with gentle up-and-down strokes.
#3 Brushing too aggressively
If you brush your teeth too aggressively, toothbrush bristles can wear down the protective outer shell of your teeth, called enamel, resulting in “toothbrush abrasion.” The condition can cause increased sensitivity to cold food and drinks.
Rethink your technique if you’re a vigorous brusher. If the bristles on your toothbrush appear flattened, you may be applying too much pressure. Try replacing the concept of “brushing” with “massaging” to train your hands to use a gentler approach.
Using medium and hard bristles can also damage your teeth and the roots of your teeth, along with your gums. These types of bristles can strip enamel and cause problems even with average pressure. Choose soft bristles, which clean effectively and reduce the chances of dental problems.
#4 Abbreviated brushing
Even if you’re using the proper technique, you’ll have to brush long enough for it to make a difference. The average amount of time most people spend brushing totals 45 seconds. That’s less than half the two minutes that’s recommended twice daily. You need to brush for two minutes to remove plaque from all surfaces properly.
It doesn’t take much to make sure you’re brushing long enough. Some electric toothbrushes are programmed to alert you when you’ve reached the two-minute mark. If you use a manual toothbrush, you can use the timer on your cellphone to help you recognize how long to brush.
#5 Brushing too soon after eating
While brushing after meals can remove food that remains on your teeth, you can risk damaging your teeth if you brush too soon after a meal. Acid from food attacks your tooth enamel and the layer under it, called dentin. If you brush while the acid remains on your teeth, you risk pushing the acid deeper into your teeth and possibly damaging the plaque and dentin.
Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal can be more effective in removing acid than brushing immediately after eating. If you brush after eating, the ADA recommends that you wait 60 minutes after a meal to reduce the effects of any lingering acid. Waiting to brush also gives your saliva enough time to do its job by naturally removing destructive acid before you brush.
Find out more about proper brushing techniques and other ways to keep your smile healthy by scheduling a routine dental checkup. Make an appointment online or over the phone.