Tooth brushing is such an ingrained habit, few people think twice about it, but as with any habit, you can get sloppy, and that can lead to cavities and gum disease.
Here, dentists and oral health experts point out 10 common tooth brushing mistakes and how to fix them.
1. Not using the right toothbrush
The British Dental Health Foundation recommends using a small to medium size toothbrush. Make sure the handle is comfortable to hold.
Which is better: electric or manual? This generally comes down to individual preference.
According to the British Dental Health Foundation, electric toothbrushes have been proven to be at least 25% more effective than manual toothbrushes. Your dentist or hygienist can advise which one best suits your dental needs.
2. Not picking the right bristle
Some toothbrushes have angled bristles, others straight. So is one type better? It’s more related to brushing technique than how the bristles are angled. The British Dental Health Foundation recommends a brush with soft to medium multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles.
Bristles should be sturdy enough to remove plaque but not hard enough when used properly to damage the teeth.
3. Not brushing often enough or long enough
You should clean your teeth at least twice a day, especially last thing at night. However, if you eat or drink sugary foods, you ought to clean more often. Cleaning for two minutes is usually sufficient to remove plaque.
4. Brushing too often or too hard
While brushing your teeth three times a day is ideal, doing it more frequently than that may not be beneficial. Brushing more than four times a day may seem compulsive. Excessive brushing could expose the root of the tooth to irritation, and that could in turn irritate the gums. Brushing too vigorously can also erode tooth enamel. The trick is to brush gently for two to three minutes.
5. Not brushing correctly
To brush your teeth correctly, the British Dental Health Foundation recommends that you:
- Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45 degree angle against the gum line. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.
- Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against the gum line.
- Use the same method on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.
- Brush the biting surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small circular strokes with the front part of the brush.
6. Starting in the same place each time
Many people start brushing the same part of their mouth over and over, dentists find. It’s better to start in a different place each time so that the same teeth are not left till last — by that time you may be running out of steam.
7. Skipping inner tooth surfaces
Most people forget to brush the inner surfaces of teeth — the surface that your tongue presses against. The plaque harboured there is just as damaging as the plaque on the front.
The most commonly skipped area, dentists say, is the inner surface of the front teeth.
8. Not following up with a rinse of the brush
Bacteria can grow on an unrinsed toothbrush. Then the next time you brush your teeth, you may actually put old bacteria back in your mouth. Rinsing the toothbrush after you brush will also help remove any leftover toothpaste.
9. Not letting the toothbrush dry out
If you have a toothbrush that’s perpetually damp, it will cultivate more bacteria. If the bristles stay soggy, you can misshape them as you use the brush. You could keep two brushes so that one is always dry.
10. Not changing the toothbrush often enough
The British Dental Health Foundation recommends changing your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if the bristles look frayed.
A visual inspection of the bristles is better than sticking to any strict timescale for changing your brush.