Oral & Vision Health Blog

Brushing your Teeth Properly: 9 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong

Teeth brushing is something we should all have learned from an early age. We most likely all learned from our parents who learned from their parents and so on. However, even if we are conscientious about brushing, some of us still seem to have dental problems. Some of us dismiss it as a genetic issue, but others wonder what they're doing wrong. Here are some things to be aware of with teeth brushing that might turn the tide for you:

  1. Brushing your teeth, and only your teeth, is like washing only part of your car; your windshield is clean, but the rest of the car is still covered in dirt. The bacteria that leads to bad breath and contributes to poor health takes over your entire mouth. When brushing your teeth, give your tongue and cheeks a light scrubbing to really take care of the bacteria.
  2. Brushing after a meal is a bad idea if you're brushing right after a meal, especially one with acidic foods. Give your mouth a chance to neutralize any acids naturally through saliva. The experts at Colgate recommend waiting an hour after a meal. Why? Acids in the food you eat may have started softening the enamel. Saliva will neutralize the acid. If you don't wait, you'll be brushing against softened enamel and potentially doing damage to your teeth.
  3. Over-brushing can also damage enamel. Staying at the bathroom sink too long for teeth brushing or going there too often during the day can contribute to enamel erosion. It's good to be diligent about oral hygiene, but not too diligent! Two to three times a day for two minutes at a time is the recommend amount.
  4. Brushing too vigorously can irritate your gums and cause them to pull back. This will expose the root area to bacteria. Small circles with the bristles of your toothbrush angled upwards towards the gum line provides just enough brushing to get the area immediately under the gum without exposing yourself to further infection.
  5. Too-firm bristles can contribute to receding gums. A medium to firm toothbrush has no benefit over a soft or very soft bristle toothbrush. In fact, the firmer the bristle, the more likely you are to erode your enamel and irritate your gums. Soft bristles massage the gums while knocking any food or plaque residue free. Most people only need the soft bristles, while children's toothbrushes are often very soft. Your dentist can tell you if you should be using a firmer brush.
  6. Flossing is one of the hardest practices for people to get into the habit of doing. According to the Drugstore News, people avoid flossing for a number of reasons ranging from "forgetting" to "shredding floss". Flossing, however, is a very important part of a dental hygiene routine. Even a firm-bristled brush can't get everything. Flossing, however, can reach where the bristles can't, and waxed dental floss avoids shredding except in cases with densely packed teeth.
  7. Not replacing your toothbrush is a bad idea. After about three months, the bristles begin to wear out and lose their flexibility. Be sure to replace it with an ADA-approved toothbrush (not all of them are!).
  8. Not drinking water is a problem that more people have than you would think. Water, pure H20, has no substitute for dental hygiene. As well as keeping you hydrated, plain water helps produce the saliva that fights the bacteria in your mouth.
  9. Avoiding check-ups is a big stumbling block. If you have no tooth issues, why see a dentist? The answer is because you might not realize that you have an issue. You may not know that you are grinding your teeth at night, for example. All you know is you wake up with headaches from time to time. A regular check-up (about every six months) can help head off issues like TMJ before they become a problem. They can also aid in early detection of things like oral cancer. Get those check-ups!

Good oral hygiene is about more than just a great smile and avoiding bad breath. It has been linked to preventing other conditions such as heart disease and dementia. Learning how to brush your teeth properly and then taking the time to do so is an investment in your health that is well worth the effort.


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