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5 Brushing Habits to Keep Your Teeth Pearly White

You learned about tooth-brushing so long ago that it’s packed away in your memory along with your ABCs and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Even though the techniques you learned at five years old may have served you well until now, preserving the shine and health of your teeth requires more than just swishing a brush around your mouth twice a day. 

Peter Lee, DDS of Today’s Dentistry in San Jose, CA, loves to see his patients smile. And he loves it, even more, when he’s confident that they’re brushing well and properly each day to keep that smile bright for life. Here are a few brushing habits he wants everyone to embrace:

1. Sweep — don’t rake — with a soft-bristled brush

Although you may need a stiff-bristled scrub brush to clean the gunk off your workroom floor, you don’t want to subject your tender teeth to that same brutal force. Your teeth are covered with an enamel coating that protects them from bacteria so that they don’t develop cavities and infections. But if you brush your teeth with a hard-bristled toothbrush or use too much force, you’ll eventually brush the enamel right off your teeth.

Instead, choose a soft-bristled brush, and use a gentle touch when brushing. The soft bristles gently dislodge sticky plaque and also sweep away food particles that could otherwise cause decay. 

Think of sweeping away the debris instead of scrubbing it off. Your teeth will thank you in the long run. If you’re using an electric brush, use the same technique: Let the bristles skirt the surface of your teeth to sweep away bacteria and food, but don’t push forcefully.

2. Brush all of your teeth, everywhere

You show the world the fronts of your teeth when you smile, but food and plaque collect everywhere, including between your teeth. Each time you brush, be sure to clean the:

Don’t forget your tongue. It gets coated with bacteria after you eat, too. Be sure to gently brush it clean after you’ve finished brushing your teeth, and then rinse your mouth thoroughly.

3. Brush at an angle

Don’t hold your toothbrush flat against your teeth. Instead, tilt the brush at a 45-degree angle, starting at the gum line. Work downward using short, gentle, back-and-forth sweeping motions. 

Be extra gentle when you’re near your gums, and don’t brush upward toward the gums. Brushing upward pushes bacteria under your gums and causes a periodontal infection. 

Brushing your gums too vigorously erodes the sensitive tissue, leaving your teeth at risk for infection and sensitivity. If your gums erode, you may need a gum restoration treatment.

4. Brush for at least two minutes

Two minutes might not sound that long, but each quadrant of your mouth (left top, left bottom; right top, right bottom) deserves at least 30 seconds of brushing time. Brushing each quadrant for less than 30 seconds risks missing tooth surfaces or cleaning imperfectly.

You can hum a 30-second tune four times while you brush to remind yourself to clean thoroughly, or set a timer. Some electric toothbrushes have built-in alarms that let you know when it’s time to switch quadrants. 

5. Use an ADA-recommended toothpaste

Be sure to use a toothpaste that’s earned a Seal of Acceptance from the ADA.  The ADA ensures that a toothpaste is safe and effective, doesn’t irritate the teeth or erode enamel, and contains fluoride to help protect and remineralize your enamel.

Let us brush you, too. Even if you develop excellent brushing technique, brush diligently, but softly, twice a day, and floss before you go to sleep, you still need a professional deep cleaning at least twice a year. Dr. Lee and our dental hygienists clean between your teeth and also remove hardened plaque (aka tartar) with special tools to keep your teeth and gums clean and infection-free. 

To schedule your dental exam and cleaning, or any of your oral health needs, contact us online or by phone.

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