You know that taking care of your oral health is vital for your smile and overall health, but how will you know your oral hygiene efforts are working? Here, we'll answer your questions about brushing your teeth, including how long you need to brush, how to tell if your teeth are clean, and the techniques you can use for a thorough cleaning.
How Long Should I Brush My Teeth? Answering Your Toothbrushing Questions
How long should I brush my teeth for?
Proper brushing takes at least two minutes. This can seem like a long time, especially for children, but you can use a timer to make it a bit more fun. Many electric toothbrushes have automatic timers so that you know when you've done your two minutes of brushing. Some even have "quad pacers" that alert you every 30 seconds so that you can spend equal time brushing all four quarters of your mouth.
Can you brush your teeth too much?
Brushing for longer than two minutes is not harmful, as long as you're using gentle pressure. Using too much pressure can damage enamel, exposed dentine and gum tissue, leading to tooth sensitivity and irritated or receding gums. Try brushing with your non-dominant hand to experience the difference in the amount of pressure on your teeth or use a pen-grip to hold the toothbrush.
What toothbrushing techniques should I be using?
You can prevent and help to control gum disease by brushing around and at the gum line where bacteria and plaque accumulate. There are three conventional brushing techniques you can try to ensure you're cleaning your teeth well.
1. Bass or Sulcular Technique
The Bass method of brushing involves using the toothbrush bristles to scrub off plaque — commonly known as biofilm — from around your gums before it can cause gingivitis. This is the technique recommended here by the Australian Dental Association (ADA).
- Hold the toothbrush parallel to your teeth.
- Tilt the brush to a 45-degree angle.
- Hold the brush so that half of the bristles are sitting across your gums and the other half over your teeth.
- With a firm yet gentle pressure, move the brush across your teeth and gums in small circular or back-and-forth motions.
- Brush all teeth on the outer surface and then clean the backside of the teeth using the same motions.
- Hold the toothbrush in a vertical position behind your front teeth and brush up and down, using the bristles on the toe of the brush.
- Brush the chewing surface of the molars and brush your tongue.
2. Stillman Technique
The Stillman brushing technique is similar to the Bass technique. However, instead of circles, you use short, horizontal back-and-forth strokes on all surfaces of the teeth.
3. Charter Technique
Your dentist may recommend the Charter method if you have spaces between your teeth, gum recession, or exposed roots, or if you've had periodontal surgery. Charter is also useful if you have orthodontic appliances or fixed partial dentures.
- Place the bristles on the gum line at a 45-degree angle, pointing towards the tooth's chewing surface or crown. This position is the opposite of the Bass and Stillman technique.
- Gently vibrate the brush for 15 to 20 counts, using short circular strokes or small back and forth motions.
- Brush all your teeth in the same pattern, brushing all tooth surfaces and sides.
You can use modified versions of the Bass, Stillman, and Charter techniques too. Follow the method you choose, but after brushing an area, roll or sweep the bristles away from your gums. This modification sweeps out debris between the teeth and cleans the entire tooth surface. Speak to your dentist for more information or technique recommendations for your situation.
What tools are best for brushing my teeth?
Whatever your choice of brushing technique, you need the right tools for the job. In general, it's best to choose a soft-bristled toothbrush that can fit in the hard-to-reach places of your mouth and brush with fluoride toothpaste. Whichever toothbrush is most comfortable for you to complete proper brushing twice a day, for two minutes at a time, is the best choice. Old toothbrushes can harbour bacteria and don't clean your teeth and gums very well, so be sure to replace your toothbrush after three months, or when the bristles start to fray.
How can I tell if my teeth are clean enough
Two minutes may not cut it if you're not brushing correctly. All surfaces of your teeth should be clean and free from debris. Remember to brush using short strokes, moving back and forth against the teeth and gums, around the surface of every tooth. Reach behind the front teeth and your back molars too. Also, cleaning between your teeth is just as important as brushing.
If you're not reaching these narrow areas or using an interdental brush, floss, or water flossers, you might notice more plaque build-up or bleeding gums, indicating that you may not be cleaning your teeth well enough. If you're not sure which technique or tool is right for you, or you think you might not be brushing or flossing enough, be sure to speak to your dental professional about it at your next appointment. They will be happy to answer your questions and help you find the best toothbrushing methods for you!
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.