how to brush your teeth correctly

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This article’s purpose is to provide advice about the correct toothbrushing technique and other useful tips to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

how to brush your teeth correctly

Firstly, let’s talk about why it is so important to brush your teeth and do it using the right method. Some possibly would say it is mainly because they want to make them shiny and white so they can look good on photos when they have a big smile on their faces. The answer, however, is much simpler than that.

toothbrushing has two very important purposes:

efficient removal of plaque

Plaque is a soft, white film which is found on the tooth surface. Plaque is a major causative factor for gum disease (which if left untreated could lead to tooth loss) and contributes to the development of caries (tooth decay). (1)

application of fluoride to the teeth

Fluoride toothpaste came into general use in the UK and Europe in the 1970s and it is, without doubt, the most important development in dental health to date. The caries prevalence dropped considerably since the use of it. It is a highly effective method for applying fluoride to the tooth surface. (2)

why fluoride is so important for the teeth

  • Strengthens the teeth
  • Helps in the replacement of lost minerals to your teeth
  • Makes the teeth more resistant against bacteria
  • Can prevent, control and arrest tooth decay (2)

Did you know? 

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral (in the element fluorine) and it can be found in water, soil, rock, air plants, some food and drinks (for example tea) and EVEN in the human body. (1)

how to brush correctly (tips and techniques)

  • Make sure you brush all the surfaces of your teeth. That includes the outside, inside and the biting surfaces.
  • Plaque is likely to sit where your teeth meet the gums. Angle your toothbrush towards your gums (at a 45 degree) so you brush your teeth and your gums at the same time.
  • Hold the brush in a ‘pen’ grip and make sure you don’t brush too vigorously because that can damage your teeth and gums.
  • Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. The recommended amount of fluoride for adults is between 1350 and 1500 ppm. (You find information about the toothpaste’s fluoride content on the back of the toothpaste’s tube.)
  • Spit out the toothpaste. Do not rinse out with water or mouthwash as it washes away the fluoride content of the toothpaste and reduces its preventative effect. If you use mouthwash to make sure it is at a different time than brushing (lunchtime or when you get home).
  • Don’t brush your teeth straight after eating and the other way around; don’t eat straight after tooth brushing. Wait at least 30 minutes to 1 hour in between.
  • Don’t have anything to eat before you go to sleep. After tooth brushing the toothpaste residue should be the last thing on your teeth before you fall asleep. (3)

there are various techniques on how to manoeuvre the toothbrush

The two most generally used ones are:

  • Bass technique or modified Bass: this involves gentle, circular movements while the toothbrush is angled towards the gums. In the modified Bass, this action is finished with rolling the toothbrush up (lower teeth) or down (upper teeth) towards the tip of the tooth. (1)
  • Simple scrub: this is achieved by using short horizontal movements (small forward and backwards motion with applying gentle pressure). Again, the toothbrush is angled towards the gums. (2)

which toothbrush to use

electric and manual toothbrush

manual toothbrushes

can be very effective if the right toothbrushing technique is used. They are simpler to maintain (no charging needed), less bulky, easier to carry around and cheaper – you can find manual toothbrushes for as little as 1 pound. (4) 

Manual toothbrushes can be tricky to use for people who lack manual dexterity (the skill or ability to use the hands to perform tasks) due to the handle being relatively thin. (2)

electric toothbrushes (or powered toothbrushes)

are very well-liked nowadays. They are better at removing plaque (especially the ones with oscillating/rotating action) (5) Most models have smaller heads than manual toothbrushes. Other benefits include an in-built timer, pressure sensor and fairly large handles, which makes it easier to use for people with limited mobility. However, they are fairly expensive (this comprises the buying of the replacement toothbrush heads). (4) 

How to save money 

You don’t need to buy separate electric toothbrushes for each member of the family. You can buy one and just get the number of toothbrush heads needed (most of them come in packs with different colour bands for each head; this makes it easier to remember which one belongs to you, your partner etc.).

There is a vast selection of toothbrushes out on the market. You have to choose carefully the one most suited to your needs. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist or hygienist. 

They have the most up to date and evidence-based knowledge about oral health; therefore they are well equipped to give you the best advice tailored to your dental health needs. 

Generally speaking, it is best to choose a toothbrush which has a small head. It is easier to get to hard to reach areas with it, e.g. the back of the mouth. The texture of the bristles shouldn’t be harder than medium, ideally, a soft-bristled toothbrush is the best choice. 

The plaque we aim to clean off our teeth is soft; hence you don’t need a hard toothbrush to remove it. If you ‘scrub’ too hard and use a hard-bristled toothbrush you can damage your gums (causing your gums to recede) and your teeth (abrasion – grooves appear on the neck of the teeth). (2) 

Remember, once the plaque hardens on your teeth and becomes calculus (tartar), you won’t be able to remove it, and you can do real damage to your gums and teeth if you try and scrub it off.

how to brush your teeth correctly 2

how to look after your toothbrush

  • Rinse your toothbrush well with water after use
  • Store it in an upright position to make sure it dries
  • Don’t keep the toothbrush in a closed container (however, it is strongly recommended to cover it when you are travelling and you need to put it in your bag)
  • Don’t let anyone else use your toothbrush/toothbrush head (5)
  • Toothbrushes/toothbrush heads need to be changed every 2 months or sooner if the bristles become splayed or damaged (1)

When you use the toothbrush micro-organisms in the mouth will contaminate it.

 

They work by disinfecting the toothbrushes. Using this device won’t result in the toothbrush being completely micro-organism free, however, according to a study, it will reduce the microbial count greatly. According to the same study other effective (but not as effective as UV light) decontamination methods are: soaking the toothbrush in chlorhexidine-gluconate or saline. (6)

why not to be environmental

Using dental products made of biodegradable material is a great step towards helping our planet. The market for these products is growing; it is fairly easy to find them in the shops or online (for example thehumble.co, or even Amazon – these website sells a wide variety of them).

Unfortunately, there are no biodegradable electric toothbrushes at the moment. 

What can you do? 

Look after your electric toothbrush well (following the manufacturer’s guidelines). This way you can keep it longer and you don’t have to replace it too quickly (it’s good for your wallet as well). Some dental surgeries have special bins, where you can recycle some dental products (including used electric toothbrush heads). 

To sum it up, toothbrushing is essential for the healthy mouth, just as doing it correctly. In this day and age we are always running, not having time for anything. However, there are a few things which we just can’t possibly neglect; toothbrushing IS one of them. 

Therefore, don’t rush; make sure you brush (two minutes, twice a day, using the correct technique and fluoride toothpaste). If you look after your teeth, they will look after you in many years to come. 

This article is aimed solely at the education of the correct toothbrushing technique. It is very important to note that toothbrushing alone isn’t enough to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Interdental cleaning also plays a very significant role in achieving good oral health (this topic will be covered soon).

Written by Hajnalka Takacs – qualified dental nurse and oral health educator

N.B.: The author confirms that the content of this article is created solely for
educational purposes. The content is for non-commercial use only, and in no ways
the author has gained any financial benefit from the platform it has been uploaded to
or from any of the companies mentioned in the text of the article.

  1. Felton, A., Chapman, A. and Felton, S. (2014) Basic Guide to Oral Health Education and Promotion. 2nd Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  2. Levine, R.S. and Stillman-Lowe, C.R. (2014) The Scientific Basis of Oral Health Education. 7th London: British Dental Association.
  3. Public Health England (2017) Delivering Better Oral Health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention. (Accessed: 23 February 2020).
  4. Taylor Norris (2018) Is it better to use an electric or a manual toothbrush? (Accessed: 09 March 2020).
  5. Miller, M. and Scully, C. (2015) Mosby’s Textbook of Dental Nursing. 2nd London: Elsevier Ltd.
  6. Tomar, P., Hongal, S., Saxena, V., Jain M, Rana, K. and Ganavadiya, R. (2014) ‘Evaluating sanitization of toothbrushes using ultra violet rays and 0.2% chlorhexidine solution: A comparative clinical study’, Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy, 6(1), pp. 12–18, doi:10.4103/0976-0105.145769.
This article’s purpose is to provide advice about the correct toothbrushing technique and other useful tips in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

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