How to brush your teeth properly summary
An in depth article about how to brush your teeth properly using an electric toothbrush and a manual toothbrush. It also covers how to brush your child’s teeth properly and how to best look after your teeth and gums.
How to Brush your Teeth Properly with an Electric Toothbrush
Select the right electric toothbrush and toothpaste – How to Brush your teeth properly with an electric toothbrush
The first step to brushing your teeth properly is buying the right electric toothbrush and using the right toothpaste. If you need help with choosing an electric toothbrush click here to find out more. When looking for an electric toothbrush, I would recommend buying one with the following features:
- 2 minute timer
- Visible pressure sensor
- Good Battery life
- Travel Case
- Good value for money
- Oscillating and rotating mechanism of action
In terms of choosing a toothpaste, the key ingredient to look out for is fluoride. Fluoride helps protect your teeth against tooth decay. If you are an adult, you should be looking for a concentration of 1450ppm (parts per million). Other key features to look out for are a low abrasivity ( measured in RDA – Relative Dentine Abrasivity) and of course a great taste. As a general rule stay away from whitening toothpaste because they are almost always too abrasive.
The Technique – How to brush your teeth properly with an electric toothbrush
When brushing with an electric toothbrush, you are going to be using a technique similar to the modified bass technique. I would recommend flossing or using interdental brushes prior to starting to brush your teeth, as this will clean away any food debris. First of all apply a pea sized amount of toothpaste on the electric toothbrush head. Make sure that the electric toothbrush is turned off because this will prevent toothpaste spraying everywhere.
Start with the outer surfaces of your teeth (the surface of your teeth closest to your lips), turn your electric toothbrush on and hold your brush head at a 45 degree angle This 45 degree angle allows your electric toothbrush to effectively brush the plaque on your teeth and the gum margins. Hold the electric toothbrush on each tooth for two seconds and gradually move along tooth by tooth. Make sure to not press too firmly with the electric toothbrush as this can cause gum recession. The optimum pressure to apply is 150 grams of force which is around the weight of an orange.
Repeat this process for the chewing surfaces and the inner surfaces of the teeth. For the chewing surfaces, you will be holding the brush head perpendicular to the chewing surface of the tooth. For the inner surfaces of the teeth you will be holding your brush head at a 45 degree angle. The only exception to this is the front teeth where the electric toothbrush will be held more vertically. As with the outer surfaces of your teeth, you will be holding the brush on each tooth for two seconds.
After 2 minutes of brushing, spit out the excess toothpaste. Do NOT rinse out with water or mouthwash, as this will rinse off the fluoride toothpaste coating which protects your teeth. This will feel odd the first few times you do it however your teeth will be healthier for it. Brush your teeth twice a day for the best results, brush once first thing in the morning and once last thing before bed.
How to Brush your Teeth Properly with a Manual Toothbrush
Select the right manual toothbrush and toothpaste – how to brush your teeth properly with a manual toothbrush
The first step to brushing your teeth properly with a manual toothbrush is selecting the right manual toothbrush and toothpaste. I would always recommend going for an electric toothbrush as electric toothbrushes clean 21% better than manual toothbrushes. However if you wish to use a manual toothbrush, here are the main things to look for:
- A small brush head size so that the manual brush is easy to use
- Medium bristles
- A moderately sized toothbrush handle
In terms of choosing a toothpaste, the most important ingredient is fluoride. If you are an adult you are looking for 1450 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride because this will protect your teeth against decay. On top of this you are also looking for a toothpaste with a low abrasivity (which is measued in RDA – Relative Dentine Abrasivity) and a good taste. As stated in an earlier paragraph, stay away from whitening toothpastes because they tend to be very abrasive. Too abrasive toothpaste can lead to toothwear, gum recession and sensitivity.
The technique – how to brush your teeth properly with a manual toothbrush
When brushing your teeth with a manual toothbrush, you will using the modified bass technique. If you are going to floss, always floss prior to brushing your teeth as this will remove any food debris from in between your teeth. Remember to get the best results, you will need to brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day. The best times to brush are first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
First of all you will need to add a pea sized (0.25g) of fluoridated toothpaste onto your manual toothbrush. This is likely a lot less than you are used to. You only need a small amount.
Start with the outer surface of your teeth and angle your brush at a 45 degree angle. This 45 degree angle allows the toothbrush bristles effectively clean your teeth and the gum margin, where plaque tends to harbour. Make small circular motions with the brush and work your way along the outer surfaces of your teeth.
Repeat this process for the chewing surfaces and inner surfaces of the teeth. For the chewing surfaces, you will hold the brush head perpendicular to the chewing surface and make small circular motions.
On the inner surface of the teeth, you will angle your brush at a 45 degree angle as you did for the outer surface of your teeth. The only exception to this is for the inner surfaces of the front teeth, where the toothbrush is held more vertically and an up and down motion is used.
After 2 minutes of brushing (I would recommend using an egg timer or your smartphone to measure this), spit out the excess toothpaste. Do NOT rinse out with water or mouthwash. If you rinse your mouth out this will wash off the fluoridated toothpaste from your teeth. It is like using moisturizing cream and then washing it off with water, the toothpaste will not work as well. This will feel odd the first few times you do it, however it will be much better for your teeth.
How to Brush your Teeth for Kids (0-6 years old)
Select the right toothbrush and toothpaste for children – How to brush your teeth for Kids
Selecting the right toothbrush is highly dependent on the age of the Child. In teeth terms, I will be referring to children as 0-6 years old because this is the age that children have their “baby” teeth. During this age, it is really important that children are supervised when brushing even if they insist they can do it themselves. Developing good brushing habits at this age is key to them continuing to have healthy teeth throughout their life. In terms of toothbrushes that I would recommend, I have covered this in detail here in my article on best children’s electric toothbrushes.
In terms of toothpastes, according to the latest delivering better oral health you should be using a toothpaste with no less than 1,000ppm fluoride concentration. To check this go to the ingredients section of a children’s toothpaste and look for fluoride, the concentration will usually vary from 1,000ppm to 1,450ppm. For children aged 0-3 years old, you will be using a smear of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Once they turn 3 years old and upwards, you will be using a pea size amount of toothpaste which is 0.25g.
The other important thing to look for in a toothpaste for children is flavor. Children are exceptionally sensitive to taste and you will have to try multiple different toothpastes until you find one that they like. As a general rule, most 0-6 year olds are not keen on strong mint flavours so going for a toothpaste with a milder flavor will be better accepted.
The technique – how to brush your teeth for Kids
All the things that apply to brushing adult teeth apply to brushing children’s teeth. The only differences are you will be brushing someone else’s teeth (your child’s), the number of teeth will be less and they will likely be wiggling around. Brushing a child’s teeth properly is an art which needs to be practiced twice a day as soon as the first teeth erupt at around 6 months old (if you would like to find out more about when teeth erupt click here). The best times to brush are first thing in the morning and last thing at night for 2 minutes.
When brushing a child’s teeth, I always stand in front of the child so I can get a good look at the teeth. I often find that distracting them with an ipad app makes them stay still. Some good apps to try out are:
- Brush DJ – great for children and adult’s alike who want to brush their teeth for 2 minutes. It is a simple app that plays music for 2 minutes whilst brushing your child’s teeth, simple but effective. Available for both android and iphone.
- Aquafresh brush time – is a fun, free app for children that allows them to choose a customisable background, character and song to brush along to for 2 minutes. The aquafresh character does a series of funny dances for your child to dance along to. This is available on both Itunes and Android.
- Disney magic timer app – this app is only available if you have bought an Oral-B Stages electric toothbrush as you will need to scan the Oral-B product code in to download the app. It is a fantastic app to distract your child when brushing their teeth.
Modified Bass Technique – How to Brush your teeth for Kids
The technique you will be using to brush your child’s teeth is known as modified bass. This is where you hold your toothbrush at 45 degrees and brush in a circular motion.
First of all you will need to put a smear (for 0-3 year olds) or pea size (for 3-6 years old) of toothpaste on your child’s brush. This is only a small amount and is a lot less than the “stripes” of toothpaste you see on television adverts.
Then turn on your ipad/tablet to distract your child. I personally like brush DJ.
Start with the outer surface of your child’s teeth. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle and brush in small circular motions. The 45 degree angle will allow the bristles to clean effectively along the gum margin, where plaque tends to harbor. Work your way across all the outer surfaces of your child’s teeth.
Repeat this process for the chewing surfaces and inner surfaces of your child’s teeth, making sure to not miss out any surface of their teeth. For the inner surfaces of the front teeth, you will need to angle the brush more vertically and scrub up and down.
After 2 minutes has passed stop brushing your child’s teeth and get them to spit out the excess toothpaste. Do NOT rinse out with water. This is to ensure that a layer of protective fluoride remains on your child’s teeth. It is equally important that the child does not swallow the excess toothpaste, as this could increase the risk of fluorosis of the adult teeth.
Repeat the brushing process morning and night, to build up a good brushing routine.
When should I start flossing my child’s teeth?
You should start flossing your children’s teeth once they start fitting close together and could potentially trap food between them. This can be as early as two years old. You will likely need to floss their teeth up until the age of 10 because they will not have the manual dexterity to floss properly.
Should children use mouthwash?
Children should not need to mouthwash if they are brushing and flossing properly. I only recommend fluoridated mouthwash to children who are 8 years and upwards and have lots of tooth decay. If you want to start using a mouthwash on your child, I would highly recommend speaking to a dental professional beforehand. In most cases, it will not be needed. Fluoridated mouthwashes actually contain a significantly lower concentration of fluoride and will not protect your teeth as much as toothpaste.
Frequently Asked Questions – How to Brush Your teeth Properly:
How long should you brush your teeth for?
It is recommended that you brush your teeth for 2 minutes to properly clean them. You can use an egg timer, a handy smartphone app or any decent electric toothbrush to make sure that you brush for 2 minutes. To put this in perspective, the average adult only brushes their teeth for 45 seconds!
How hard to press when brushing teeth properly?
The ideal pressure to apply when brushing teeth is 150 grams, which is about the weight of an orange. Applying the correct pressure whilst brushing is crucial because applying too little force will mean you do not clean your teeth properly and applying too much force can lead to gum recession. The problem is how do you measure the amount of force you are applying on your teeth? The simple way is to use an electric toothbrush with a visible pressure sensor. Here are some cheap electric toothbrushes with pressure sensors. If you really want to use a manual toothbrush then I would recommend buying a cheap weighing scale and feel how hard you have to press to reach 150 grams. Most people find they are pressing way too hard.
Make sure to also use medium bristled toothbrushes. I find some people use firm bristles because they feel as though they clean better. Firm bristles coupled with pressing too hard whilst brushing will lead to excessive toothwear.
How often should I brush my teeth?
I recommend brushing your teeth twice a day. First thing as you wake up in the morning and the last thing you do before you go to bed. Interestingly out of the two times, it is more important that you brush your teeth at night. The reason for this is saliva production, which helps protect teeth is lower during the night. However, I thoroughly recommend cleaning your teeth twice a day. For some people just doing this will have a massive improvement on your oral health. The Oral-B Smartphone app that is linked to the Oral-B Genius 8000 and 9000 actually reminds and motivates you to brush your teeth twice a day. If you are struggling to develop the habit, I would recommend checking it out.
Should I brush my teeth before or after breakfast?
It is argued that cleaning your teeth before breakfast is better than afterward. The reason for this is that the sugars in your breakfast can soften tooth enamel. If you brush your teeth after breakfast this can mean you end up brushing away more of the tooth enamel as it is softer. This is supported by minimal scientific research and if it is a decision between not brushing at all or brushing your teeth after breakfast, please keep brushing your teeth in the morning. The health benefits of brushing your teeth twice a day far outweigh whether you brush your teeth before or after breakfast.
Why am I brushing my teeth?
The reason you brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes is to prevent oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease. When you are brushing your teeth, you are aiming to reduce the number of germs (dental plaque) on your teeth and leave a layer of fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride toothpaste helps strengthen your teeth and kills off some of the decay forming bacteria.
What toothbrush should I use to clean my teeth properly?
I almost always recommend using an electric toothbrush even for children. It has been clinically proven to clean your teeth 21% better than manual toothbrushes. Not only this but it makes cleaning your teeth properly more predictable and simpler. I would recommend you checking out this article to find out which electric toothbrush would suit you.
What toothpaste should I use to clean my teeth properly?
I have reviewed the Colgate total and Oral-B Pro Expert toothpaste. Both are great adult toothpastes (6+ years old) for regular use and contain the right amount of fluoride. If you have particularly sensitive teeth, I would recommend an adult sensitive toothpaste (6+ years old) such as Colgate sensitive pro relief or Sensodyne repair and protect.
Avoid whitening toothpastes at all costs, they are highly abrasive and can cause unnecessary tooth wear. They do not even whiten teeth, they merely remove staining.
How to brush your teeth properly with braces?
Brushing your teeth with braces follows the same regime as brushing teeth without braces. Brush twice a day for 2 minutes, making sure to brush all surfaces of the teeth and using a toothpaste recommended above. Brushing teeth with braces is more tricky because there are more areas for dental plaque to build up. I would recommend using an Oral-B electric toothbrush with the Braun Oral-B Ortho Care Essentials. This pack contains three brush heads including 2 x ortho brush heads and an interspace brush. The interspace brush is useful for cleaning around the wire and brackets of the braces and the ortho brush head cleans everywhere else.
Where should I brush my teeth?
I recommend brushing your teeth in the bathroom in front of a mirror. Brushing your teeth in front of the mirror will make sure that you brush all areas of your mouth not just your favorite side. Typically right-handed people brush the left-hand side of their mouth better and vice versa.
Is brushing enough or do I need to floss?
You need to use something in between your teeth to clean them properly. Imagine dipping your hand in a jar of dirt with your fingers squeezed close together. If you only cleaned the front of your fingers would they be clean? Not a chance you would still have dirt between your fingers. Equally brushing just the front of your teeth will not clean them properly.
Regular use of floss or interdental brushes is essential for a healthy mouth. Out of the two, I prefer interdental brushes particularly TePe Interdental Brushes. Interdental brushes are not only easier to use than floss they also clean more effectively.
Should I floss my teeth before or after brushing?
It is better to floss or use interdental brushes before you brush your teeth. If you use it afterwards, you will remove the fluoride toothpaste coating from your teeth. Also any food debris that is between your teeth will hinder your toothbrush from brushing your teeth properly. Always floss before brushing your teeth.
What is “spit don’t rinse” and why does it protect your teeth?
Most people when they brush their teeth rinse their mouth out with water afterward. This is wrong! Rinsing your mouth out with water will remove the protective fluoride toothpaste from your teeth. Instead, spit the excess toothpaste out from your mouth and then leave the rest of the toothpaste to “soak in”. This will strengthen your teeth in the long run. It will feel weird to start with but after a while, it will become a habit.
How do I know what teeth I am missing out when tooth brushing?
It is really important when brushing properly to clean all the surfaces of your teeth. This can be difficult if you cannot see where you are missing. This is where Plaque disclosing tablets come into play. Plaque disclosing tablets use a vegetable dye to color the plaque blue (also your tongue and your sink). Warning: I would not recommend doing this before you are going out on an important date. Choose a good time, usually before going to bed and brush your teeth normally. After brushing your teeth, use the plaque disclosing tablets to find out which areas you are missing. After you have done this, brush the blue bits off your teeth and try again the next day. Do this until you find there is no blue on your teeth. I find this particularly useful for children but adults can find it useful too.
How often should I replace my toothbrush or brush head?
I would recommend replacing your toothbrush or brush head every 3 months or when your brush bristles start to get frayed, which ever is earlier. Some toothbrushes have indicator bristles that let you know when it is time to replace your toothbrush. 3 months is about the limit due to the bacteria accumulation over that time.
How much toothpaste should I use on my toothbrush?
Often toothpaste adverts show people putting a large stripe of toothpaste on their toothbrushes. This is way too much toothpaste! If you are an adult, you should only be using a pea sized amount of toothpaste which is only 0.25g of toothpaste.
What firmness of bristles should I use when brushing my teeth properly?
I would recommend going for medium bristles when brushing your teeth, this is a good balance between being too gentle and being too firm. If you have particularly sensitive teeth or press too firmly with a toothbrush, you can go for soft bristles as this will help prevent your teeth against tooth wear. I would avoid any toothbrush with extra soft or firm bristles.
Should I use mouthwash?
Mouthwash should only be used in certain cases and is not suitable for everyone. First point is that you should be over 8 years old. The second point is that you will only find use from a fluoridated mouthwash if you have a really high level of tooth decay or gum disease. Brushing your teeth regularly twice a day for two minutes with an electric toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste will be enough for most people.
Mouthwash does come in useful if:
- You have a high amount of caries and your dentist has recommended it. In this case I would highly recommend using your fluoride mouthwash at an alternative time to brushing your teeth. So a good regime would be to brush your teeth first thing in the morning, use fluoride mouthwash at lunch time and then brush your teeth last thing before bed.
- You have dry socket after a tooth extraction, a particularly severe case of ulcers or a lot of bleeding on brushing your teeth. In all these cases I would recommend seeing your dentist as soon as possible but in the mean time using a short course (1 week) of chlorhexidine mouthwash can help. Do not use it if you have a chlorhexidine allergy or are pregnant. It also has side effects of staining teeth, dry mouth, mouth irritation, increased tartar and temporary alteration of taste so be careful. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s packaging before buying and ideally speak to a pharmacist, doctor or dentist first.
- You have temporarily injured your wrist or hand and are struggling to brush your teeth properly. A fluoride and/or chlorhexidine mouthwash can help prevent tooth decay and plaque accumulation when you are recovering your manual dexterity.
You should now be able to brush your teeth properly with a manual toothbrush or electric toothbrush. Thank you for reading. If you would like to find out my recommended list of electric toothbrushes click here.
Thank you for the compliment 🙂
unfortunately, i have recessed gums due to excessive force and prolonged times.
i found the brushes provided by oral b are to hard for my gums and i found an off-label
use for my >4 electric toothbrushes: wife uses them to fertilize flowers. the vibration
allow mixing of pollen and female part of the flowers ( forgot the name )
That is definitely a unique use. If people have recessed gums from brushing too firmly then I usually recommend moving to an Oral-B sensitive (Softer) brush head, using a sensitive (reduced power) cleaning mode and getting an Oral-B model with a visible pressure sensor.
Pressing too firmly with any brush manual or electric will cause recession. It is not the brush it is the technique of using it.
Nice post, very informative ..Thanks for sharing these blogs with us!
You are most welcome!
I use an electric Oral-B toothbrush with CrossAction brush heads. Should I also place this kind of brush head at a 45 degree angle? As the CrossAction head itself is already (slightly) angled.
My dental hygienist says that an electric toothbrush should not be angled at all (CrossAction or other brush heads), contrary to a manual toothbrush. According to you, this is wrong information?
Thank you for your fantastic question. I do not like going against a fellow dental professionals view point, perhaps the dental hygienist knows something that I do not.
I have gone on the Oral-B website and found out the following.
“To use a rechargeable electric toothbrush, just place toothpaste on the brush head and hold the brush at a 45-degree angle, just as you would a manual toothbrush.”
If in doubt I always recommend using electric toothbrushes as the manufacturers states it to be used.
Hope this helps.