Scrubbing your teeth like you scrub the kitchen counter
Unlike your kitchen countertop, getting your teeth clean does not require muscle. You can easily damage the enamel on your teeth and cause your gums to recede by brushing too hard. Do me a favor, and take a look at your toothbrush—if the bristles are frayed, you are brushing too hard!
Imagine cleaning a very ripe peach with a toothbrush. Yes, I know you don’t wash your peaches with a toothbrush (neither do I, but hear me out).
If you brush the peach with firm pressure and use long brush strokes, the skin of the peach will rip. If you apply gentle pressure and use small brush strokes, you will clean the peach without breaking the skin – this is how you should brush your teeth!
Using a toothbrush with hard bristles & Keeping your toothbrush too long
You do not need a HARD-bristled toothbrush to get your teeth clean. When you choose your new toothbrush from the overwhelming selection at your local grocery store, always go for one with SOFT bristles. The bristles need to be able to bend to clean under the gum line.
If you come to Anderson Dental Care twice a year for cleanings, we give you 2 of the four soft-bristled toothbrushes you need for the year. You should change out your toothbrush at least every three months. A new toothbrush is 90% more effective than a 3-month-old one.
Forgetting to brush part of your teeth
There are five surfaces on each of your teeth; front, back, top (the chewing surface) and the sides which touch your other teeth.
People often forget the inside surfaces of their teeth because they can’t see them as well, creating an out of sight out mind situation. Food and plaque buildup on ALL sides of your teeth, so it’s important to clean every surface even if it doesn’t show up in your Instagram selfie.
Not brushing long enough
It’s just 2 minutes twice a day (but it feels like forever – I know).
Most people spend about 45 seconds brushing their teeth. Brushing for this long is better than not brushing at all, but it’s typically not enough to prevent cavities or infection long-term. If you can manage to brush for 2 minutes, you should be able to remove about 40% of the plaque on your teeth. The remaining plaque is what we’re able to remove when you come in for your cleaning appointments twice a year.
In the office, we can remove the plaque you couldn’t get rid of with your toothbrush, and we polish your teeth to create a smooth surface that bacteria and plaque have a harder time attaching to.
Here is how your 2-minute brush should break down:
- 30 seconds for top teeth – inside surfaces
- 30 seconds for top teeth – outside and chewing surfaces
- repeat on the bottom teeth
You can also break your mouth into quadrants (top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right), and spend 30 seconds on each quadrant, brushing all the tooth surfaces equally. (Don’t forget to floss so you’ll get the surfaces between the teeth that are harder for the toothbrush to reach).
Like I said earlier, keeping your teeth clean is not about muscle, but it IS about brushing more often. Twice a day is the standard suggestion, but if you are inspired at lunch to give your teeth a touchup, bonus points for you! (Pro-tip: if you can’t brush after lunch, chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol in it will help neutralize the acids in your mouth and stimulate saliva production, keeping bacteria at bay until you can brush at night. I prefer Trident gum.)
The purpose of brushing is to disrupt bacteria and remove any leftover food, as well as to apply a tiny bit of fluoride (from the toothpaste) to protect your enamel.
Even though enamel is the body’s hardest tissue, it’s not living tissue. If it wears away from acidic food and drinks, or over-brushing, it has no way to regenerate. It’s depressing, but every time we eat, there’s some enamel damage. It’s minimal, but, over the course of a lifetime, it can add up.
OK, so how can you establish a 2-minute brushing routine?
- Set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes (an obvious, though not exciting, solution).
- Listen to your favorite 2-minute song on your phone while you brush. When the song is done, so are you! Here are a few of my favorites. Most of these are around 3 minutes, which also gives you time to floss, rinse and spit. 😉
- “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5
- “Sweet Pea” by Amos Lee
- “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer
- “One Less Day (Dying Young)” by Rob Thomas
- “Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
- Get an electric toothbrush that has a built-in timer!
The timer in most electric toothbrushes is set to 30 seconds queuing you to move on to the next area. The electric toothbrush, paired with your favorite 2-minute tunes, should make the time go by in a flash.