Toothbrushing may be the last thing you put on your news years resolution list, but the American Dental Association (ADA) is urging everyone to take a closer look at their toothbrush habits this month. It’s so easy to fall into the hum-drum routine of toothbrushing, which, for many people, involves mindlessly standing in front of the mirror once or twice a day and brushing their teeth for several seconds.
I stand with the ADA in reminding my patients and the rest of the nation about the importance of proper brushing. Here are 7 common mistakes people do while toothbrushing and how to correct them.
- Using a toothbrush for more than 3 months: The average life of a toothbrush is 3-to-4 months. Make a resolution to change your toothbrush with every season this year. Frayed and broken bristles are signs it’s time to let go. When you’re shopping, look for one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Not brushing long enough: Teeth should be brushed for a full two minutes, twice per day. The average time most people spend brushing is 45 seconds. If you’re racing through cleaning, try setting a timer. Or distract yourself by humming your favorite tune.
- Brushing too hard: Be gentle with your teeth. You may think brushing harder will remove more leftover food and the bacteria that loves to eat it, but a gentle brushing is all that’s needed. Too much pressure may wear down the hard outer shell on your teeth and damage gums.
- Brushing right after eating: Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing – especially if you have had something acidic like lemons, grapefruit or soda. Drink water or chew sugarless gum to help clean your mouth while you are waiting to brush.
- Storing your brush improperly: Keep your toothbrush upright and let it air dry in the open. Don’t keep your toothbrush in a closed container, where germs have more opportunity to grow, and if your toothbrush is in a holder next to another, keep them as separate as possible.
- Using a brush with hard bristles: Soft bristles are the way to go. You don’t want to use medium or hard bristles because these may wear down the outer shell of your teeth and may cause sensitivity when eating or drinking cold food and beverages.
- Improper brushing technique: Get your best brush with these steps:
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.