Teeth Brushing Tips: How to Brush Your Teeth Properly

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How to Brush Your Teeth

Three Parts:

Brushing your teeth is not just for a whiter smile and fresher breath, it's critical for your overall health.When you brush, you remove plaque — a thin film of bacteria that sticks to your teeth and will create cavities, gum disease, and if you ignore it long enough, will cause your teeth to fall out! You knowwhyto brush, but if you would like to learnhowto brush your teeth efficiently, these suggestions will help.


Using the Right Tools

  1. Use a good toothbrush.Choose a toothbrush with soft nylon bristles. This must effectively remove plaque and debris from your teeth, without irritating the gums or eroding tooth enamel like hard-bristled brushes can do when used with sideways action. The toothbrush should also fit comfortably in your hand, and have a head small enough to easily reach all of your teeth, especially the ones at the back. If you have difficulty fitting the toothbrush into your mouth, it is probably too big.
    • Electric toothbrushes are a great choice if you are a lazy brusher and think that the electric toothbrush might encourage you to spend more time on your teeth; however, you can do just as good of a job with a manual toothbrush — it's all in the technique.
    • One good method is to brush with a manual toothbrush in the morning and use an electric toothbrush at night.
    • You should definitelyavoidtoothbrushes with "natural" bristles made from animal hair as these can harbor bacteria and must be replaced more frequently.
  2. Replace your toothbrush regularly.The bristles will wear out over time, losing their flexibility and effectiveness. You should purchase a new toothbrush every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles start to splay out and lose their shape. Visual inspection of the toothbrush is more important than the actual timeline. You can also buy toothbrushes whose handles will change color when it's time to purchase a new toothbrush.
    • Research has found that thousands of microbes call toothbrush bristles and handles "home," and can cause infections.
    • At about three months, bristles become sharp due to friction and can cause your gums to bleed.
    • Always rinse your brush after using it, and store it upright and uncovered so that it can dry before your next use. Otherwise bacteria will grow.
  3. Use a fluoride toothpaste.It not only helps remove plaque, but it also helps strengthen tooth enamel.It's important to note that fluoride toothpaste isnotto be swallowed, as ingesting too much can have serious health consequences. It should not be used for children under the age of three.
    • You can get toothpaste to target a wide variety of dental and gum problems, including cavities, tartar, sensitive teeth and gums, gingivitis and stained teeth. Opt for the one that suits your best or ask your dentist or hygienist for advice.
  4. Use dental floss.Flossing your teeth is just as important as brushing, as it removes built up plaque, bacteria and food particles that get trapped between the teeth, which soft floppy toothbrush bristles can't reach even when used with up/down natural motion. You should always flossbeforebrushing your teeth so that any food or bacteria that comes loose during flossing doesn't remain in your mouth.
    • Remember to floss gently. Don't "snap" the floss between the teeth as this can irritate sensitive gums. Ease it down gently, following the curve of each tooth.
    • If you find dental floss awkward to use, or you have braces, look for dental picks instead. These are small wooden or plastic sticks which you can insert between teeth, achieving the same results as flossing if spaces are large enough.
    • Alternatively, you can use flossers, which are small pieces of floss strung between 2 supports, generally with a pick at the opposite end.

Mastering the Brushing Technique

  1. Use a small amount of toothpaste.Squeeze only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto your toothbrush. Applying too much toothpaste can cause over-sudsing, tempting you to spit and finish too early. Plus, it increases the risk of you ingesting more fluoride-filled toothpaste, which is very unhealthy.
    • If brushing is painful, try brushing more gently with accurate circle motion only or switch to a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth.
  2. Set your bristles at the gum line at a 45-degree angle.Gently brush with a short, circular motion. Don't brushacrossyour teeth.Ask your dentist or hygienist to present you the correct brushing technique.
  3. Spend two to three minutes brushing.Brush just a few teeth at a time,and work your way around your mouth in a circle so that you get every tooth (spend about 12 to 15 seconds in each spot). If it helps, you can divide your mouth into quadrants: top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right. If you spend 30 seconds on each quadrant, you'll get a full two minutes of brushing time in.
    • Try starting at the outside lower left teeth, moving to the outside lower right, then outside upper right to upper left. Change to inside uppers and brush inside upper right, inside lower right, and finally inside lower left.
    • If you get bored, try brushing your teeth while watching television or hum a song to yourself while you brush. Brushing your teeth for the duration of an entire song will ensure that you brush thoroughly!
  4. Brush your molars.Position the toothbrush so that it's perpendicular to your lips, or so that the bristles are resting on top of your bottom molars. Work the toothbrush in an in-and-out motion, and move from the back of your mouth to the front. Then complete this motion doing s rotational movement of the brush in order to eliminate bacteria which have been dislocated from the surface. Repeat on the other side of your mouth. When the bottom teeth are clean, flip the toothbrush over and work on the top molars.
    • To access outside top molars always swing the lower jaw to the side you are working on. This will increase the space available to move your brush up and down by several times so that no sideways motion occurs.
  5. Brush the inner surfaces of your teeth.Tip the toothbrush so that the head of the toothbrush is pointing towards your gum line, and brush each tooth. Dentists report that the most commonly skipped area is the inside of the lower front teeth, so be sure not to forget those! Check that your mouth is opening wide enough by holding teeth apart with two or three fingers of your other hand. This will allow correct vertical angle to reach edge of gum.
  6. Brush your tongue gently.After you've cleaned your teeth, use the bristles of your toothbrush to gently clean your tongue. (Don't press too hard, or you'll damage the tissue.) This helps keep bad breath away and gets rid of bacteria on your tongue.

Finishing Up

  1. Rinse out your mouth.If you choose to rinse after brushing, take a sip of water from a disposable cup, or cup your hands under the faucet. Swish it around your mouth, and spit it out.
    • Note that there is some debate on whether or not this is recommended. While some feel that it reduces the efficacy of the topical fluoride treatment, others wish to ensure that no fluoride is ingested. There are also those who just don't like having toothpaste in their mouths! If you're at a high risk of getting cavities, it may be beneficial not to rinse, or rinse with just a small amount of water — effectively creating a fluoride mouthwash.
    • Other studies have shown that rinsing after brushing has no significant impact on the effectiveness of brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Rinse your toothbrush.Hold your toothbrush under running water for a few seconds to remove any bacteria from the brush. If you don't rinse the toothbrush properly, you can actually introduce old bacteria into your mouth the next time you use it. Rinsing also removes any leftover toothpaste. Place your toothbrush somewhere where it will readily dry out. Otherwise, bacteria can grow.
  3. Finish with a fluoride-based mouthwash (Optional).Take a small sip of mouthwash, swish it in your mouth for about 30 seconds, and spit it out. Be careful not to swallow any.
  4. Rinse your mouth with salt water (Optional).Saltwater kills the bad bacteria on your teeth. There is a rumor that saltwater is acidic and can erode teeth if used too often. It's better not to use it too often, as, like anything, too much of anything is bad.
    • For a complete antibacterial protection rinse with a chlorhexidine mouthwash before going to bed, but do not use it for longer than two weeks in a row.
  5. Remember to brush at least twice a day.Most dentists recommend that you brush at least twice a day — once in the morning and once before bed. If you can fit in a third time somewhere in the middle, even better! Try brushing at a 45° angle as this helps remove plaque and food/drink particles on your teeth better than if you did it normally. You should also try to avoid snacking between meals as much as possible, as this results in more food debris and bacteria building up in the mouth.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    What kind of toothbrush recommended?

    Doctor of Dental Surgery
    Dr. Macau is a Dentist at Favero Dental Clinic in London. He received his D.D.S. from Carol Davila University of Medicine in 2015.
    Doctor of Dental Surgery
    Expert Answer
    Always go for a soft or medium toothbrush and brush your teeth using the correct technique. This prevents gum recession, bleedings or enamel loss that are caused by hard bristles and aggressive brushing over time.
  • Question
    Don't you have to use a tongue cleaner?

    Doctor of Dental Surgery
    Dr. Macau is a Dentist at Favero Dental Clinic in London. He received his D.D.S. from Carol Davila University of Medicine in 2015.
    Doctor of Dental Surgery
    Expert Answer
    You can also buy a tongue cleaner — a the metal one should be easier to keep clean. It is not a must though, because simply brushing your tongue several time from back to front does almost exactly the same as a tongue cleaner.
  • Question
    Is it important to have a good toothbrush?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Not having a good toothbrush can increase the chance of getting mouth odor (smelly breath). You should also remember to brush your teeth two times daily, and change your toothbrush every two to three months.
  • Question
    Do you only need to floss your teeth when something is stuck in them ?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, you need to floss your teeth regardless of whether you can see anything stuck in them or not. You may not see something between your teeth but when you floss, you get the food out even though you didn't know the food was there.
  • Question
    Does it always have to be at a 45 degree angle?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    There is actually a space between you teeth and your gums that in health is 1-3 mm in depth. By brushing at a 45 degree angle, the bristles of your toothbrush are able to clean this space.
  • Question
    My breath is super stinky. I love it. Should I keep it smelling like this?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No. It's unpleasant for anyone who is around you, and more important, it means your mouth is in bad condition. If you don't keep your teeth and mouth clean, the bacteria will eat away at your teeth and gums, and you will have problems.
  • Question
    What do I do if my teeth start bleeding?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Generally, it is your gums that bleed, so find the bleeding place and be careful when your are brushing there. Brush there slowly and gently, and consider using an alcohol free mouthwash to keep your gums healthier. It is common for this to happen occasionally, but if it is frequent, go to your dentist.
  • Question
    What can you use other than floss to do the same job?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can use sticks you get from the pharmacy. They are used to floss and give the same results.
  • Question
    What do I do with the excess water in my mouth?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Either brush over a sink so it falls out of your mouth into the sink, or spit out the excess.
  • Question
    Can you tell me what technique should be used with an electric toothbrush?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Do the same thing you would do with a regular toothbrush. All the electric brush is doing is spinning it in a circular motion for you, but this does help create a cleaner feel.
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  • If you can't brush after a meal, at least swish water in your mouth to loosen food particles.
  • If your gums bleed easily, that's a sign your might have inflamed gums (gingivitis). See your dentist. Gingivitis is a serious cause not only of tooth loss and bad breath but of infection of the heart valves. Don't stop brushing if your gums bleed, but do switch to a softer toothbrush.
  • There are toothbrushes with timers that tell you how long to brush. These types of toothbrushes may help you when brushing different angles of teeth in your mouth.
  • Wait 10 minutes before brushing after eating a meal.
  • Electric toothbrushes are better because you don't have to "rub" your teeth — but in general, good brushing habits are much more important than whether or not you use an electric brush.
  • Most people follow the same routine while brushing. Consider starting in a different location each time you brush, to avoid missing the same spots repeatedly.
  • Use a toothpick to take out food particles from between your teeth.
  • Visit a dentist at least every six months for an exam, x-rays, and a cleaning.
  • At the very least, brush your teeth in the morning and before you go to bed. Brush after every meal if possible, but don't overdo it: toomuchbrushing is not good for your teeth.
  • It's highly recommended that you replace your toothbrush every 3 months or after a cold.
  • If you want to brush your tongue (which is highly recommended) then make sure not to go too back down your throat.


  • Don't brush too hard. Gums are very sensitive tissue.
  • Never use someone else's toothbrush. You can transfer germs, bacteria, and diseases through microscopic cuts in your mouth.
  • Do not skip brushing your teeth — skipping out on this vital practice can cause tooth decay.
  • Bleeding from infected areas may be expected to occur for a few days followed by rapid healing to the healthy mouth you deserve.
  • Do not swallow toothpaste or mouthwash. They contain chemicals that are toxic if you swallow them, e.g. ammonia and cetylpyridinium chloride.
    • If more toothpaste or mouthwash than used for brushing or rinsing is swallowed, obtain medical attention or call a Poison Center immediately.
  • Wait at least 45 minutes before brushing your teeth after drinking soda, wine, or acidic juices such as orange juice. Sodas and juices leave residual acids on the teeth, and brushing can actually damage the enamel.

Things You'll Need

  • Floss
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Water
  • Saltwater (Optional)
  • Mouthwash (optional)
  • A good quality toothbrush

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

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