No one likes to think they have been brushing their teeth wrong. After all, we’ve been brushing our entire lives, so we should have it down pat, right? Unfortunately, there are many ways you can be brushing incorrectly, some of them more damaging than others. Identifying how you’re brushing improperly and making changes to your routine is crucial to maintaining good dental health.
You’re brushing too hard
Some people brush their teeth like they’re trying to remove paint, but brushing too hard will damage tooth enamel and lead to recession of the gums, which is irreversible. Brushing hard is not the key to fighting plaque and bacteria; instead, you should opt for a soft scrubbing. If you’re finding it difficult to brush softly, try to imagine you are brushing each tooth, one at a time, in tiny circles. Many people even upgrade to an electric toothbrush for their ability to deliver the consistent scrubbing teeth need.
You’re not brushing enough…
We’ve all been there: it’s late, you just got home, and the comfort of bed and sleep are calling your name. But think of how much havoc bacteria will be able to wreak in your mouth for the next 7 to 8 hours without a proper cleaning! It’s important you spend at least 2 minutes, twice-a-day, brushing your teeth.
Yes, at least 2 minutes, not the 45 seconds people usually spend on their teeth. Try setting a timer if you are worried you’re not making it to the 2-minute mark.
…or you’re brushing too much
Too much of a good thing always ends up badly. Like brushing too hard, brushing too much is damaging to your enamel and can lead to sensitive teeth, even if you are brushing softly. What’s worse, if you are the type of person to brush after every meal, you are doing more harm to your teeth than good. After eating, your teeth are in a weakened state from the acids in your meal, and the bristles of your toothbrush are much more abrasive.
You don’t change your toothbrush often enough
Quick - how old is your toothbrush? If you’re like most Americans, you may only be replacing your toothbrush once or twice a year, a far cry from the recommended minimum of every 3-4 months. Any longer than that and you can bet your brush’s bristles are frayed and weak. An old toothbrush is less effective at keeping your teeth clean; in fact, those broken bristles are often a breeding ground for bacteria.
You stop at brushing
Yes, this is the point where I mention how important flossing is to your everyday life. Do you realize how important flossing is to a healthy lifestyle? Only four out of ten people floss once a day, even though it’s just as important as brushing. Flossing removes the bacteria between your teeth that brushing alone cannot reach. If left to fester, that bacteria turns into plaque, and then tartar, which no amount of flossing or brushing will remove. As part of your routine, remember to floss before brushing, so that when you brush you’re removing any remaining bits of bacteria.
And don’t just stop at brushing your teeth: the bacteria that build on your tongue are responsible for most cases of bad breath, so give it a good (gentle) scrubbing!
The biggest way people are brushing wrong is simply by not paying attention. Don’t get distracted by your phone or the TV; watch what you’re doing in the mirror, and make sure you’re giving each tooth an equal amount of attention. It is never too late to pick up good habits that will keep your smile healthy for years to come. After all, you’ve got a chance to practice twice a day!