9 Tips to Brushing your Teeth Better

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You were taught from a young age to always brush your teeth at least twice a day. But for various reasons, you may have found it difficult to include routine tooth brushing into your busy schedule. Perhaps you experienced a major life change that made your oral health worse. Or maybe you were told by your dentist that you have new cavities or gum disease.

The truth is that everyone can get help to improve their oral hygiene technique. In this article, we are going to share with you 9 tips to improve your tooth brushing technique.

Table of Contents

The goal of tooth brushing

Let’s not forget why we brush our teeth. We don’t brush our teeth just for fun. The purpose of tooth brushing is to remove the plaque off our teeth. Dental plaque is a soft collection of food particles, bacteria, and debris that sticks on the tooth surface.

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This dental plaque is problematic, because certain bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus produce acids that will erode our teeth and cause cavities. Moreover, the plaque sitting on the gum surface will cause inflammation around the gums, known as gingivitis. Gingivitis damages the gum and bones and will lead to tooth looseness and eventually tooth loss. debris that accumulates on the tooth surface.

Tooth brushing and flossing is one of the most effective ways to remove soft plaque before it becomes a problem.

Tip #1: Brush after every meal

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One small change that can make a big difference is to wait until AFTER a meal to brush your teeth. In addition, try to brush after every meal.

For some of us, the first thing we do when we get out of bed is drag ourselves into the bathroom to brush our teeth. But if you eat breakfast right afterwards, all the tooth brushing you just did will have been pointless, because now your teeth are dirty until lunch (or the next time you brush your teeth, which may not be until before bedtime)! Changing your tooth brushing routine from before breakfast to after breakfast will give you 3-4 hours until lunch where your teeth remain clean.

Of course, you can brush your teeth both before and after breakfast. There is no harm in that. But if you are a busy person like me, and you don’t have all day to stand in front of the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth, then brushing immediately after a meal is much preferred.

This idea equally applies to lunch and dinner.

After lunch, try to make it a habit to brush immediately afterwards. For a lot of people this will be a challenge. If we are busy with our jobs and are constantly on the go. At the very least, you should rinse your mouth with water to swish away any loose plaque, food debris, sweetness and acidity that may be resting on your teeth.

Tooth brushing immediately after dinner is better than brushing just before bed time. For example, if you typically go to bed at 11pm, but you had dinner at 6pm, brushing just after dinner will give you 5 hour of clean teeth compared to if you brushed immediately before going to bed.

It is amazing how just one simple change of habit can make a huge difference in your oral health.

Tip #2: Create a tooth brushing circuit

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Tooth brushing might feel so routine that you start to do a scrub job, brushing any which way without paying attention to whether you have actually brushed all the surfaces of your teeth. It is almost as if you set your brain on autopilot. You start brushing your teeth without thinking about where the toothbrush goes. Some tooth surfaces get brushed two or three times. Others get missed entirely.

When brushing your teeth, it is important to be mentally present and to pay attention, ensuring that all the surfaces of get brushed. The best way to do this is to create a tooth brushing circuit that you will never forget.

With your trusty tooth brush in one hand, start with the top (maxillary) row of teeth. Brush the outside (cheek facing) surfaces from right to left, then brush the inside (palate facing) surfaces from left to right, then finish by brushing the biting surfaces from right to left.

Move now to the bottom (mandibular) row of teeth and repeat. Brush the outside (cheek facing) surfaces from right to left, then brush the inside (tongue facing) surfaces from left to right, then brush the biting surfaces from right to left.

Congratulations, you just finished your first complete tooth brushing circuit!

Conventional wisdom says that you should brush your teeth for a total of two minutes, so time yourself. If you find that in two minutes, you finish two complete circuits of the top and bottom rows of teeth, then that means by doing two complete circuits, you spend the adequate minimum amount of time brushing your teeth.

By creating a predictable tooth brushing circuit, you create a systematic way to ensuring every tooth gets brushed.

Tip #3: Learn proper tooth brushing technique

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For many of us, we built a habit of scrubbing our teeth back and forth. However, this is the incorrect way of brushing your teeth. It is important to learn the proper method of brushing your teeth. The method that I recommend is called the Modified Bass Technique:

  • Place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the gums

  • Gently move the brush back and forth in short vibrating strokes. It would be as if you are simulating the action of an electric toothbrush, vibrating back and forth. Spend a couple of seconds doing this on each tooth surface. It is helpful if you mentally count or keep track of which tooth you are on.

  • Finish each tooth with a few vertical strokes away from the gum, in essence sweeping debris away from the gum.

  • Follow the dental brushing circuit described in Tip #2, covering all cheek-facing, palate- or tongue-facing, and occlusal surfaces.

Tip #4: Use a soft bristled toothbrush

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How hard are the bristles on your toothbrush? Does it feel stiff like a shoe brush? If it does, then you may be doing irreversible damage to your tooth. Teeth may feel hard like rocks, but they are actually quite fragile and can be abraded away by stiff bristled brushes. This is called traumatic abrasive tooth brushing.

Therefore, It is important to choose a soft bristled toothbrush. The softer the better. They do a terrific job sweeping away plaque that builds up on teeth, without abrading away your tooth enamel.

Most tooth brushes have soft bristles anyways, but it is important to check.

Some electric toothbrushes have a feature where the brush stops vibrating if you press too hard against the teeth. This is a very good feature to have.

Tip #5: Know where the problem areas are

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Common areas that require more time and attention with the toothbrush include:

  • Behind the last (most posterior) tooth in your mouth
  • Dental implants
  • Bridges
  • Lingual wires
  • Around orthodontic braces

These areas trap plaque more easily and deserve more time with the toothbrush.

If you have been to the dentist recently, the dentist will be able to identify any problem areas that require special attention with the toothbrush. The dentist will also be able to give you customized advice on how to better clean around this areas of special care.

The dentist may recommend other tools to help you, such as an electric toothbrush, specialized toothbrush heads, Waterpik water flosser or flossing devices.

Tip #7: Consider buying an electric toothbrush or other tooth brushing aids

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There are many good reasons why you may consider an electric toothbrush. When holding the toothbrush still, the electric toothbrush does all the brushing for you. This is great for people with poor hand-eye coordination, such as young children, the elderly, and people with physical disabilities.

Other people choose an electric brush because it is faster, and can provide better cleaning ability.

There are certain features of an electric toothbrush that I recommend you look for when purchasing your first electric tooth brush:

  • Soft bristles to prevent traumatic tooth brushing.
  • An automatic stop if you press too hard against your teeth.
  • Ability to control the vibration intensity level. Very basic models have just one power setting, which can be too rough against your gums. I recommend you start on the lowest setting to find your comfort level.
  • Make sure your electric tooth brush is powered by ultrasonic vibrations instead of a circular rotation. These features prevent excessive forces that can damage teeth and gums, as well as provide the most efficient brushing ability.

It is for these reason that I find Philips Sonicare toothbrushes to be fantastic. Models like the Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 have the various intensities to choose from, a vibrating toothbrush head, automatic stop if you press too hard, and soft bristles. It is also very affordable and so will not break the bank.

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If you love your manual tooth brush, then you don’t have to switch. Just as long as you are doing a good job keeping the teeth clean. 

Tip #8: Consider using other tooth brushing aids

Don’t stop there. There are other helpful tooth brushing aids for your consideration.

The Sulcabrush, for example, is a small head toothbrush with a tufted, pointed end that is designed to brush in hard to reach places, such as between the teeth.

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There are also Interdental Brushes. These look like pipe cleaners, but actually allow you to brush in between the teeth contacts. The space in between teeth is a common area for cavities to occur.

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Another favorite device is the Water flosser, such as the Waterpik Waterflosser. Water flossing has been shown to disrupt bacteria in pocket depths measuring up to 6 mm deep; however, this is a technique-sensitive approach to interproximal care. You should educate yourself about proper techniques and be advised to use water flossers on a low-pressure setting.

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Tip #9: Don’t forget flossing!

I have a saying that goes: Floss the teeth you want to keep! Do not discount the magnificent power of flossing, which allows you to clean in between teeth where a traditional tooth brush head cannot access.

For more information, read this article on 6 Helpful Tips to Floss Your Teeth Better.

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