Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is a key step in preventing cavities. But there are several common mistakes you can make when brushing your teeth that can leave plaque behind, cause receding gum lines and damage tooth enamel. Find out what you’re doing wrong—and how to break these bad brushing habits.
You’re Brushing Too Hard
Brushing with too much pressure is one bad brushing habit that can damage parts of your mouth. Brushing your teeth harder doesn’t get them cleaner. In fact, too much elbow grease can cause receding gum lines. If you’re brushing too hard, the pressure from your toothbrush shrinks your gum line and stops protecting the sensitive areas of your tooth as well. If your gums recede too much, your mouth may become sensitive to hot or cold foods and liquids.
Plaque is a sticky but soft film on your teeth that doesn’t require hard brushing to remove. To get rid of plaque, place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Gently brush along your teeth and gum line in gentle, back-and-forth strokes. Be sure to brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces and the chewing surfaces of your teeth. If you notice tooth sensitivity, gum swelling or bleeding in your mouth, ask your dentist if you may be brushing too hard. These could also be underlying symptoms of gum disease. Aggressive brushing can cause gum disease symptoms to get worse.
You’re Using the Wrong Brush
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a soft-bristled brush, no matter if it’s a manual toothbrush or an electric one. When you buy a new toothbrush, the choices can be a little confusing. Is a soft, medium or firm toothbrush better for your teeth?
Medium and firm brushes are abrasive and can damage your gums and teeth enamel, causing sensitivity and bleeding. For this reason, the American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled brush, no matter if it’s a manual toothbrush or an electric one.
Here are a few more tips for making sure you’re using the right toothbrush:
- Look for toothbrushes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This seal indicates that the toothbrush is both safe and effective for removing plaque and reducing gum disease.
- Make sure the toothbrush fits in your mouth comfortably. If you have to stretch your jaw to brush, the toothbrush head may be too large for your mouth and may not clean hard-to-reach spaces properly.
Don’t forget to replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
You’re Not Brushing Long Enough
Remember the saying “slow and steady wins the race”? It applies to toothbrushing too.
According to the ADA, most people are speed demons and spend about 45 seconds brushing their teeth. That’s well below the recommended 2 minutes for a clean mouth!
A proper, 2-minute brushing includes cleaning the outside surfaces, inside surfaces, and chewing surfaces of the teeth. Use a phone or kitchen timer to keep track, switching your brushing location by mouth quadrant every 30 seconds—right, left, top and bottom.
If you don’t have a timer handy, try signing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Alternatively, play your favorite 2-minute song while you brush your teeth. “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks and “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley are two we’d recommend.