Brushing thoroughly and regularly every day is step one in ensuring that you maintain a healthy, beautiful smile for life. But did you know that there’s so much more to it than just brushing regularly? The way you brush can impact the overall health of your mouth, and in fact, if your brushing habits aren’t correct, they might actually do more harm than good for your teeth and gums. Check out this list of common brushing habits that could actually be causing harm to your pearly whites.
Your brush is not new, and not clean
Having a fresh brush can ensure that you have a fresh smile. If your brush is old, consider replacing it. Germs can accumulate over time on a toothbrush, and over-used brushes get bent and frayed bristles, which aren’t as effective as newer, straighter bristles. The American Dental Association suggests replacing your brush four times a year (if it helps you to remember, replace your brush at the start of each season).
And certainly, do not EVER share a toothbrush with someone else! It may seem like no big deal: after all, the other person might be someone with whom you’ve shared food, or even a kiss! But it is, in fact, a very big deal. A toothbrush begins to store germs over time, and if you’re using a brush that’s not yours, you’re ingesting someone else’s germs! You leave yourself susceptible to bacteria with which your body is not familiar, and therefore increase your risk of illness. Play it safe by using your own brush and never sharing it.
You brush too quickly
It’s true that any tooth brushing (be it a 20-second endeavor or a two-minute one), is better than not brushing your teeth at all. But certainly, a quick brush does not do the job the way a long one does. It may seem a bit much, but the American Dental Association recommends a full two minutes every time you brush. This gives you ample time to brush both top and bottom rows of teeth, on the inside, outside, and top of the tooth. Further, if you’re using a fluoride-based toothpaste (as you should) you’re giving the toothpaste time to act: fluoride needs more than thirty seconds of contact before it begins to work its magic on your tooth enamel, so brushing for two minutes is ample.
You brush too hard
It might seem counter-intuitive that brushing hard could cause problems: after all, the harder you brush, the deeper the clean on this gums and pearly whites, right? Wrong! Brushing too hard can do a number of nasty things to your smile. It can irritate your gums or cause you to brush away the enamel on your teeth. And anyways, it’s not necessary: plaque sits fairly loosely on our teeth and so a light brushing is just as effective in removing it.
You neglect your gums and tongue!
When’s the last time you thought about cleaning your tongue? It’s not something that’s regularly taught as an important part of overall oral hygiene and yet it should be. The tongue can be a hotbed of bacteria and needs addressing just like the teeth do. Consider buying a tongue-scraper to properly address your tongue. You can also brush it with your toothbrush: dentists typically agree that the toothbrush is no less effective than other tools in adequately cleaning your tongue. For the gums, you must floss, floss, floss! And don’t forget to brush your gums as well: many toothbrushes have softer bristles that are specifically designed to let you brush your gums gently and effectively.
You brush too soon after eating
If you brush after meals, then good! That’s a great habit: it’s important to get that detritus and bacteria out of your mouth before it’s been left too long and festers. But did you know that there’s such a thing as brushing too soon after eating? Because the aciditiy of some foods can linger in our mouths for fifteen or even twenty minutes after we eat, brushing during that time actually does more harm than good. It pushes the acid around in our mouths to areas that were otherwise out of reach, giving the acid an even better opportunity to break down the enamel on our teeth. Try waiting about thirty minutes after eating to brush: this way the acid will be gone but you’ll still address that bacteria in a timely manner.
The brush you’re using just isn’t right for you
It’s possible that the bristles on your toothbrush are too hard, and that they’re weakening your enamel. Or it’s possible that the grip and angle on your toothbrush
You don’t properly care for your brush
Obeying the “new brush every quarter” policy? Good for you! But if your brush isn’t being correctly cared for in that time, it might all be for naught. Do your best not to leave your brush out on the counter (it’s susceptible to germs there). Instead, store it in a closeable travel container. Rinse your brush thoroughly after each use and inspect it: if the bristles are starting to bend or you spot discoloration, it’s likely time to replace the brush.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist about good brushing habits. The talented folks at About Smile are here to help you develop a good and reliable brushing routine that will keep your smile beautiful and healthy.