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10 tooth brushing mistakes


WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

It is easy to get into bad habits with tooth brushing. Get tips on 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 more effective than manual toothbrushes at removing plaque. 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 twice 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.

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