Skip to main content

How to Properly Brush Your Teeth

Anyone who’s tried to teach a child the proper way to brush their teeth knows the fundamentals. But even us grownups could use a refresher from time to time. You might be surprised by some of the poor habits we pick up over time. Not to worry. Here’s an easy-to-follow guide showing you how to brush your teeth the right way.

The Right Way to Brush Your Teeth

A lot of people are opting for electric toothbrushes these days. But for this guide, we’ll assume you have a regular old standard toothbrush. The first few steps are about preparation, because if you get that part wrong, it throws everything else off.
“Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
-Abraham Lincoln

1. Start with a good, clean toothbrush

Select a brush that is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Make sure its bristles are soft enough for you and not all worn out and frayed.

More and more people are using UV-C sterilizers in between brushes to ensure their toothbrush is germ free and like-new clean every time. Such products, like Bril, often enclose the toothbrush head, protecting it from dust and debris. If you store your brush in the open air or in a drawer, you’ll want to give it a quick rinse before starting.

2. Prepare the brush

Load up about a pea-sized amount of ADA approved toothpaste on your brush head. Remember, a little goes a long way. If you use too much, you may end up spitting it out before the recommended amount of brushing time is over. This small amount will lather up just fine.

If you haven’t already done so, running the brush under warm water at this point is a good way to soften the bristles and make those first few strokes more comfortable.

3. Angle the brush

Before you start brushing, you should know how your toothbrush should touch your teeth and gums. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. One of the most common mistakes people make when brushing is coming straight at their teeth and gums head-on with the brush.

When you bring your toothbrush into contact with your teeth and gum line, it should be at about a 45-degree angle. Does this mean you keep it facing the same direction the whole time? No. Angle your toothbrush upward when brushing the top row of your teeth. Angle it downward when brushing the bottom row of your teeth. So whichever row you’re brushing, angle the toothbrush toward the gumline, not away from it.

That allows the bristles to penetrate slightly under the gum line. Always check to see what your dentist recommends. If you have gum recession, your dentist may recommend a different method that will be gentler on your gums. Your goal is to clean as best you can while avoiding trauma to your mouth.

What angle should my toothbrush be?

4. Brush gently

There are two reasons for this:
First, you want to take it easy on your gums. Being too rough with your brush and pressing too hard on your gums can cause gum recession. If your dentist has ever told you that you have thin gum tissue, you want to be extra careful here. A vigorous brushing along your tooth and gum line can harm your mouth when you’re trying to do good.

Second, it causes your toothbrush to wear out a lot faster. Have you ever noticed your toothbrush bristles all splayed outwards? That’s probably an indication that you’re brushing too hard. And if you remember from the beginning of our article, that’s a brush you should be replacing.

5. Back and Forth VS Circular Strokes

Most people learn to brush back and forth, and the ADA still recommends it. However, many dental professionals recommend a circular motion. When you use a manual toothbrush this way, you’re mimicking the movement of an electric toothbrush. Whether you go back and forth or do small circles, it’s vital to take time to get each tooth individually. Brushing back and forth is almost a universal recommendation for the chewing surface of your teeth.

6. Use small strokes

When using a back and forth motion, it’s important not to go too far. Some people brush in long strokes, covering more than an inch at a time. To brush effectively, it’s best to think in terms of millimeters, not inches. The goal is not to brush over the surface of the teeth, but to work the bristles into the crevices. Think about how you might sweep a patio versus how you would use the broom on the grooves between the concrete squares.

7. Pull away from the gum line.

A popular recommendation is to get the brush along the gum line and then slide it away from the gums. In doing so, you’re pulling plaque and food elements out and away from the gum line. That keeps them from getting wedged into that tight space where they can damage your teeth and gums.

8. Brush your tongue.

Brushing your tongue is an easy step to forget for many people. After all, it’s a toothbrush, not a tongue brush. But brushing your tongue is an easy habit to implement. It helps to remove germs and prevent bad breath. And who wants to walk around with bad breath? Many modern toothbrushes even have a tongue scraper on the back of the brush head. You could opt for specialized y-shaped or u-shaped tongue scrapers or use what’s on the back of your toothbrush.

How to brush your tongue

You should already have enough foam from the water and toothpaste leftover after finishing your teeth. If not, load up another pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Now reach your toothbrush to the back of your tongue and brush forward. You want to remove bacteria toward the front of your mouth and spit it all out. After doing so, you may choose to rinse your toothbrush and do one more tongue sweep with water alone. You should clean your tongue twice a day, at the end of each time you brush your teeth.

9. Rinse and stow your brush.

This last step is crucial. Just as you rinsed your toothbrush head with hot water before use, you should repeat that step at the end. This should remove the toothpaste and any debris that may have gotten trapped in the bristles while brushing. A few light taps on the edge of the sink is always a good idea to knock off any excess moisture.

To make sure your brush is sterilized and ready for your next brush, it’s a good idea to store it in a UV-C sanitizing case, like Bril. The ultraviolet light will kill off 99.9% of the germs that may try to linger or grow on the brush, so that your dental tool is ready to go when you next need it.

Conclusion

The ADA recommends a full two minutes of brushing at a time, twice a day. That can be especially tough at night after a long day when all you want to do is collapse into bed. We get it. But this is not the thing to skip over. What happens when you don’t brush your teeth at night? You’re leaving behind plaque buildup, which now has the time to harden and become much more difficult to remove. These are the perfect conditions to cause cavities and tooth decay.

When you go to brush, remember this simple process. This is the proper way to brush your teeth and shouldn’t take more than two minutes each time. Your oral health is an indication of your overall health. So, remember to brush at least twice a day and always start with a sanitized brush head.

References:

  1. Advanced Family Dentistry. What Happens If You Don’t Brush Your Teeth Before Bed?
    https://www.tucsonazdentistry.com/blog/what-happens-if-you-dont-brush-your-teeth-before-bed/
  2. American Dental Association. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Toothbrush.
    https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/toothbrushes
  3. American Dental Association. Brushing Your Teeth.
    https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth
  4. Colgate. How to Clean Your Tongue to Avoid Bad Breath
    https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/bad-breath/how-to-clean-your-tongue-and-avoid-bad-breath#
  5. Nemeth, Joseph R. How to Properly Brush Your Teeth (The RIGHT Way!)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5siTo1ztlgY&t=1s
  6. Silver, Natalie. What’s the Most Effective Way to Clean Your Tongue?
    https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-clean-your-tongue#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
  7. Watson, Kathryn. How to Brush Your Teeth Properly.
    https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/how-to-brush-your-teeth
  8. Watson, Kathryn. How to Disinfect Your Toothbrush and Keep It Clean.
    https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/how-to-clean-toothbrush