Are You Brushing the Right Way?

You may remember that old toothbrush commercial that ended with the dramatic phrase: “Brush . . . like a dentist!”

The ad implies that if you use this specific brand of toothbrush, then you will automatically brush like a dentist.  The reality is that you can brush like a dentist with any kind of toothbrush.

Here are the things you need to know in order to brush like a dentist.


When you do brush, it is important that you spend enough time on it to ensure that you are reaching every surface of every tooth.  On average, it takes about two minutes of brushing for you to properly clean a mouth full of teeth.

In general, there are three exposed surfaces of each tooth.  When you brush correctly, you take the time to clean the lip or cheek side, the tongue side, and the biting surface.  It is a good idea to have a consistent routine, starting in the same place each time so that you know you haven’t missed a spot.

Twice a Day

People build up plaque at different rates.  For some people with issues such as a dry mouth, plaque will form on the teeth very quickly, even right after brushing.  These patients may need to brush more frequently than twice a day.

The average, healthy person should brush no less than twice each day.  The best schedule is to brush after coffee and breakfast to start your day with a clean slate.  Then brush before bedtime so that you do not leave dangerous plaque buildup on the teeth while you sleep.

We find that many people brush only in the morning because they worry about bad breath as they come into contact with people throughout their day.  That can be great motivation to brush every day.

It is even more important to brush at night before bed.  When we sleep, our body naturally produces less saliva.  Saliva is an important cavity-fighting tool, and when it is not actively flowing, we are at higher risk for dental disease.  Because we know we have less saliva flow at night, we need to go into bed with as little plaque on the teeth as possible!  This is why brushing before bed is so important.


Do not ever use a hard or medium toothbrush!

They do not improve plaque removal, and they do increase your risk for enamel damage!  Medium and hard bristles on a toothbrush put you at risk for enamel abrasion.  Abrasion removes enamel and makes you more susceptible to cavities.  Many people choose hard bristled toothbrushes, assuming that they clean better than a soft bristled toothbrush.  This is simply not true.

Always use a soft toothbrush only!


Technique is the most important aspect of brushing.  You can brush for the right amount of time several times a day, but if you are doing it with the wrong technique, it won’t do you much good.

Maybe the problem originates in the term we use to describe our oral hygiene routine.  Many people brush their teeth, but miss the most important area of plaque buildup: the place where the teeth and gums meet.  A better term would be brushing the teeth and gums.  Unfortunately, a lot of people spend two minutes twice a day brushing the areas of the teeth which are least likely to have plaque buildup.  That makes the brushing least effective.

In order for brushing to matter, it must have the proper technique and lead to the best end result.  The desired end result is the removal of all plaque, bacteria and food debris from the teeth and gums.  The way to reach that result is by using the right technique, or to “brush like a dentist”.

We already discussed the need for reaching every surface of every tooth.  Now let’s explain how to reach the most common sites of plaque buildup.

Plaque has two favorite areas: 1) the tiny crevice where the gums meet the teeth, and 2) the space between the teeth where the toothbrush bristles do not reach.  We address #1 by brushing properly.  We address #2 by flossing (you didn’t think we forgot about flossing, did you?!?).

Brushing properly requires holding the toothbrush so that the bristles are at a 45-degree angle, pointing at the edge of the gums.  Using gentle, circular motions, the soft toothbrush bristles should lightly touch the gums on each tooth as you make your way around the mouth.  This technique takes some coordination and can be difficult for people with physical disabilities or restrictions (including young children).

If you have trouble achieving this technique with a manual toothbrush, you should consider using an electric toothbrush.  Electric toothbrushes have very soft bristles and are extremely effective at plaque removal.  Because they perform the movements for you, your job is simply to make sure the bristles reach every area of the tooth.

Need Help Developing the Right Brushing Technique?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation one of our wonderful dental hygienists.  They are experts at brushing technique and at giving you specific tips on reaching the areas you are prone to miss.

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