Top 8 Brushing Mistakes to Avoid

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Keeping your teeth nice and healthy requires regular visits to the dentist. However – good dental hygiene starts at home. Brushing your teeth is so second-nature that you don’t even think about what you are doing. It’s almost like being on autopilot. You have been doing it for as long as you can remember, so how could you possibly do it wrong, right? And yet, many people (including adults!) don’t brush their teeth correctly. Mistakes made when brushing teeth can have big consequences and lead to problems like cavities and gum disease.

In this article, we will take a look at the most common ones. Thankfully, where there are mistakes, there are also ways to fix them, so keep smiling!

#1 Using the Wrong Toothbrush

Choosing the right toothbrush is a huge dilemma most people face. Extra soft, soft, medium, hard, manual, electric… There’s an overwhelming selection of brushes on the market. Talk to your dentist about what kind of toothbrush is best for you depending on your teeth type and try different brands until you find one you’re comfortable with.

Some people believe the harder the bristles are, the more effectively they clean. This is wrong! Hard bristles can wear down your tooth structure and cause your gums to pull back, allowing for bacteria and plaque to build and making your teeth more sensitive to cold and hot due to the roots being exposed. So it’s best to choose soft bristles.

You should also consider the size. The toothbrush should feel good in your mouth and in your hand. If you need to stretch your mouth too much to let the brush in, then it’s probably too big for you.

No matter which toothbrush you choose, always remember a clean mouth really depends on you, not just your brush!

#2 Not Brushing Your Teeth Long Enough

The recommended duration for a tooth brushing session is at least 2 minutes in order to throroughly and effectively remove food debris and plaque the sticky film that forms on the teeth and contains bacteria.

Even though 2 minutes doesn’t sound like much time, we often cut the brushing time short without even realizing it. As a matter of fact, most of us fall short of the recommended duration — the average time most people spend brushing is actually 45 seconds!

A smart thing to do is to divide your mouth into four sections and spend 30 seconds on each. You may have super clean teeth in the front, but what about the sides or the back molars? Make sure you don’t neglect any part.

Use what you can to ensure you brush your teeth long enough. If you don’t have a timer you can use your cell phone. Alternatively, you can put your headphones on and listen to a song, which, on average, is 2-3 minutes long.

If you feel like two minutes is too long, you can engage in other activities such as watching TV, reading, watering your plants or working out, or you can distract yourself with other things that you know need to get done.

#3 Brushing Incorrectly

Here’s another common brushing boo-boo — going back and forth along your teeth. Start from the gum and go up and down in circular motions, touching both the teeth and the gumline – the area where your tooth meets your gum. Circular motions are more gentle and effective at cleaning the gaps between the teeth.

Brush every tooth in your mouth, the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces. And don’t forget to focus on your gumline, a haven for bacteria!

Be gentle with your gums and teeth. Don’t brush too hard!  You may think that brushing hard will remove more leftover food debris and bacteria, but too much pressure may actually damage your gums and cause excessive abrasion and wear to your enamel.

Also, make sure you hold the toothbrush at an angle of 45 degrees to the gums. When you brush at this angle, you are brushing safely without causing injuries to the gums, and you have greater efficiency in cleaning.

#4 Not Flossing

No matter how great your technique, brushing alone is not enough to adequately clean between teeth. Floss at least once a day to remove plaque and food from between the teeth, where your toothbrush doesn’t reach. Plaque that is not removed will turn into tartar, also called dental calculus – hard calcified plaque – which can only be removed by a dental professional.

As for the question of whether you should floss before or after brushing, new studies suggest that flossing before brushing may be the ideal sequence for removing dental plaque as flossing after brushing allows particles to settle back into the teeth.

#5 Not Cleaning Your Tongue

Don’t forget to brush your inner cheeks and your tongue, too. That’ll get rid of bacteria and prevent bad breath. Many people neglect their tongue when in fact it’s one of the most important parts of your oral hygiene maintenance. You can brush your tongue with the toothbrush bristles or with a toothbrush that includes a tongue cleaner on the opposite side. Alternatively, you can buy a tongue scraper. Although cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush is a decent option, researchers have found that scrapers are more effective at removing leftover food debris and smelly bacteria off the tongue than toothbrush bristles. Stick out your tongue as far as you can, place the scraper toward the back of the tongue and move it toward the front while applying pressure. Rinse the tongue scraper under warm water to clear any debris and bacteria from the instrument and repeat several times.

#6 Using The Same Brush For Too Long

When you finally find the perfect toothbrush for you, it’s sometimes hard to give it up and you try to hold on to it for as long as possible. However, according to experts you should change your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months in order to avoid bristle breakdown, enamel damage and bacterial overgrowth. If the bristles are frayed, broken, bent or worn, they won’t clean your mouth properly, which will lead to more plaque and food debris in your mouth and eventually to gum inflammation and cavities. You should conduct what experts call “the eye test”. This means, as soon as the bristles lose their normal flexibility, it’s time to replace your toothbrush.

#7 Brushing Right After Eating

After eating the pH levels in the mouth drop and saliva has a higher acid content. By brushing immediately, you are helping rub the acid deeper into the enamel and liberate more minerals from the weakened tooth surface.  For this reason it is better to wait at least 30 minutes after a meal before you brush your teeth, especially if you have had a particularly acidic meal. That is long enough for the saliva to neutralize the acid. But what if your meal wasn’t acidic? Because many foods contain a lot of acid, but we might not associate them with high acid levels, it’s best to always follow this rule – regardless of what you eat -, just to be on the safe side. If you have a hard time waiting to brush, try drinking water or chewing sugarless gum to help clean your teeth.

#8 Not Storing Your Toothbrush Properly

When you’re done brushing, always rinse your toothbrush properly and make sure you are not leaving any food debris on the head. Store the toothbrush in an upright position to help gravity drain the water and let it air dry in an open area. Also, avoid keeping your toothbrush in a closed container. This is good when you are travelling, but it is definitely not the best way to store your brush daily, as a moist brush is more likely to grow bacteria.

And here comes the gross part…. Some studies show that toothbrushes in households often have poop particles on them! This is due to bacteria from the toilet bowl being sprayed around the bathroom when you flush with the lid up. So you might want to consider storing your toothbrush on your nightstand or inside your medicine cabinet and make sure to put the toilet seat down before flushing.

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