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The Ultimate Guide to Brushing Teeth: How to Brush Your Teeth like a Dentist in 120 Seconds


The Ultimate Guide to Brushing your Teeth

Or: How to Brush Your Teeth like a Dentist in Richmond, VA

By Brent Rusnak

For most of us, brushing our teeth is a once a day task that qualifies as one of those mindless activities that you don’t need to pay much attention to–you just need to get it done.

Also, for many of us brushing our teeth is probably something we take very little time to do.

We give our mouth a quick scrub before darting out the door in the morning, or a hasty brushing before collapsing on the pillows.

But this will not help decrease your cavity count during your next visit to the dentist or promote good oral health.  In order to really see the results from brushing your teeth, you need to brush for 2 minutes each time you brush, or 120 seconds.

To reap the full benefits of brushing your teeth you need to brush once in the morning and once in the evening before going to bed.

But you shouldn’t simply brush your teeth twice a day: you need to brush like a dentist twice a day.

In a rush?  Click the links below to jump to a particular section.

How Do I Brush My Teeth? Or, Brushing Like a Dentist

When we brush our teeth most of us don’t typically focus on any particular part of the mouth, or bother advancing in a methodical manner from one region of the mouth to the next.  We brush all over as we get our day planned out in our head, or brush carelessly as we prepare to get some much needed rest from a long day at work.

But that’s not how dental hygienists and dentists brush their teeth.  They have a method.

Divide your mouth up into four quadrants:

  • Top left
  • Top right
  • Bottom left
  • Bottom right

Brush your teeth from front to back, moving from left side of your mouth to the right, or if you prefer, right to left.  Make sure to clean the outer surface of your teeth, then the inner surface, and finally the chewing surface.  And don’t forget to brush your tongue, it helps to freshen your breath!

Dentist Tip: Brushing three times a day is ideal.  If you can brush once after every meal–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–you minimize the growth of bacteria in your mouth. But wait an hour after each meal: brushing too soon can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth.

Tooth Brushing in the Morning

It is pretty obvious that you should brush your teeth in the morning.  However, while the benefits seem obvious, they are nevertheless worth pointing out.

The main benefits of brushing your teeth in the morning are:

  • Getting rid of morning breath
  • Reducing bacteria in your mouth

Make sure you brush your teeth before breakfast, and not afterwards.

Dentist Tip: Replace your toothbrush once every three months, or when it begins to show signs of significant wear.

Tooth Brushing in the Evening

It goes without saying that you accumulate tiny bits of food on and in between your teeth throughout the day from the three meals you eat (and a few snacks here and there).

When this food remains on your teeth throughout the night it creates bacteria which  breaks down tooth enamel, especially if the foods you consume are sweet and acidic.  Since virtually all that you eat contains some level of sugar (which promotes bacteria growth), it is important to brush at the end of the day.

The three main benefits of brushing your teeth in the evening are:

  • Removing old food
  • Reducing bacteria growth
  • Reducing bad breath

You may have thought that brushing your teeth in the morning was the main way to combat bad breath, but brushing at night is equally important.  By removing old food and plaque gathered in your mouth all day, you also remove the odor that accompanies these decaying bits of food.

Dentist Tip: Be sure to rinse your toothbrush with hot water once after you are done brushing for the night.  Otherwise, bacteria has a chance to grow and you might actually put old bacteria back in your mouth the next morning!

Bonus Dentist Tip: Store your toothbrush in an out of the way place but not inside a container (which is also a breeding ground for germs) and make sure you store it standing up.

Use an Electric Toothbrush

The benefits of using an electric toothbrush (also commonly known as a power toothbrush) are many.

With an electric toothbrush you don’t have to worry about the angle you hold the toothbrush at during the cleaning process, you only have to guide it across your teeth, making sure you clean the surfaces (outer, inner, chewing) and those hard to reach places in your mouth.

You also don’t have to worry about how hard you are brushing, since one of the major innovations of electric toothbrushes is their ability to brush more efficiently.  This has the added benefit of protecting you from excessive brushing, or applying too much pressure while brushing your teeth.

Some general features of electric or battery powered toothbrushes include:

  • Timers that track how long you have been brushing, so you don’t have to worry about timekeeping
  • Brushing modes for whitening, deep cleaning, and sensitive teeth
  • Oscillating-pulsating, oscillating-rotating, or sonic technology

Popular electric toothbrush brands include Oral B and Philips Sonicare.  At Rusnak Family Dentistry we currently enjoy Philips Sonicare, which instead of employing the oscillating-pulsating of other electric toothbrushes, uses a unique sweeping motion to clean along the gum line.

Overall, the benefits of an electric toothbrush lead to a healthier, whiter smile and take a lot of work out of brushing your teeth.

Dentist Tip: It’s not about how often you brush, it’s about how well you brush. Brushing with an electric toothbrush effortlessly improves your technique.

What Type of Toothpaste Should I Use?

Since we are focusing on reducing your cavity count in this article, we strongly suggest using a fluoridated toothpaste known in the dental community as an “antimicrobial toothpaste.”  You should also be aware that many organic or natural types of toothpaste are not fluoridated.

If you have a sweet tooth, there are toothpaste made purely for the flavor experience.  So if you have been cutting back on the chocolate recently in order to promote your oral health, and are in dire need a taste fix, explore some of these tasty toothpaste options.  (Ok, so it won’t replace chocolate, but it will taste good nevertheless.)

You can also elect to use toothpaste designed for tooth whitening, if you’ve been drinking too much coffee and want to start removing the stains for a whiter, brighter smile.

Dentist Tip: When you use a fluoride toothpaste, you strengthen the enamel of your teeth, which helps to prevent tooth decay. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste can also help repair teeth that have suffered minor tooth decay.

How Much Toothpaste Should I Use?

Did you ever notice how your friendly dental hygienist stops to add cleaning paste?  If you have loaded up on the toothpaste, more than likely you are wasting it and seeing no extra benefit.

Dentist Tip: Did you know that placing too much toothpaste on your toothbrush will cause excessive sudsing, causing you to rinse too early?  Use less toothpaste!

Use half the amount of toothpaste that you normally would, and divide your brushing up into two steps.  Use toothpaste for the top of your mouth, and when you have completed brushing and rinsing your top teeth it’s time to stop.

Now add another round of toothpaste, and use this to clean the bottom of your mouth.  Keep in mind the dental tips mentioned above, working through the quadrants of your mouth in a methodical manner.

Use Mouthwash

Does mouthwash really help? A recent study by the Academy of General Dentistry involving 139 adults with mild to moderate plaque and inflamed gums asked this same question.  The Washington Post nicely summarizes the circumstances and general conclusions of the study:

“They were randomly assigned to brush their teeth twice a day and to rinse for 30 seconds, morning and night, with an antiseptic mouthwash or a placebo mouthwash, and to clean between teeth with floss or other devices as needed. Everyone used the same type of toothbrush and toothpaste. After six months, both plaque and gingivitis had declined more among people using the germ-killing mouthwash than among the others. The same was true for bleeding from their gums. Plaque had declined 26 percent more for those using the antiseptic mouthwash than for the placebo users. Among teeth that had plaque problems at the start of the study, 51 percent of those cleaned with the antiseptic mouthwash had less plaque at the end of the study vs. 12 percent of those cleaned with the placebo. A measurable improvement in gingivitis was found for 98 percent of those in the antiseptic mouthwash group vs. only 30 percent of the others.”

While mouthwash in and of itself is no substitute for brushing your teeth, it plays an important complementary role in oral health.  Mouthwash, like toothpaste, now comes in many different varieties, all related to what you want out of the product.

In this post we have been primarily focused on improving your oral health and not focused on strictly aesthetic benefits, though the two are certainly related.

As important as cleaning your teeth with a toothbrush is, only brushing still leaves a good amount of bacteria on your tongue, gums, and difficult to reach places on your teeth.  When choosing a mouth wash it is important to choose one without alcohol in it.  Alcohol dries your mouth out and makes it more cavity-prone.  Thus we recommend using a mouthwash like Listerine Total Care which contains fluoride but does not contain alcohol.

Dentist Tip: Don’t rinse your mouth with water right after you have finished using your mouthwash.  Mouthwash continues to work after you spit it out, so by rinsing with water you dilute the cleaning and strengthening benefits.

Don’t Forget to Floss!

You thought we were going to forget, didn’t you?  For now, we will just leave a gentle reminder: please floss your teeth!

Ultimate Tooth Brushing = Ultimate Oral Health Benefits

You might be wondering at this point if you can really implement all of the tips for brushing your teeth.  And where are you going to find the time to plan out your daily routine now that you have to concentrate on something that used to be so simple?

Well, if you practice this method enough, you won’t have to bother thinking about it.  You will create a healthy habit that promotes good oral health and take the stress out of dentistry.  You will brush like a dentist.

Dentist Tip: Smile!

Bonus: For even more dental tips, visit our page on Oral Health Tips.

Liked This Article? You may be interested in learning more:

General Dentistry

Oral Health Tips From Your Dentist

The Importance of Oral Health

Manual Toothbrush or Electric?

History of the Toothbrush

POSTED IN: Dental Hygiene, Dental Insurance, Dental Tips, Toothbrush

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