Be honest: do you really think about it when you brush your teeth? Are you actually mindful of what you’re doing, or do you just pick up your brush and let your mind wander as you massage your gums? Has it become so routine that you don’t even know what you’re doing anymore?
1. The right toothbrush for you.
You want a toothbrush that fits easily into your mouth and your hand, and with soft bristles—hard bristles can damage your gums. Whether you use an electric toothbrush or go old-fashioned is up to you, but if you have problems with your hands, arms, or shoulders, an electric brush can be a big help.
2. Time it.
Brush twice daily at minimum and three times at most. And when you do, brush for at least two minutes. Try dividing your mouth into four sections and spending 30 seconds on each section. Some fancier toothbrushes have built-in timers and can even sync to your smartphone.
3. Lighten up.
Not in terms of whitening your teeth, but in how much pressure you use and how often you brush. More than three times a day is just unnecessary and could be harmful. Use a light touch, and with electric brushes, let the motor do the work. It doesn’t take much to remove plaque.
4. Choose wisely.
Not all toothpaste is made the same. Whitening or tartar control toothpastes can actually wear down your teeth, so don’t use them all the time. Switch in some plain fluoride toothpaste as well
5. Practice it up.
How you brush is just as important as brushing often. Those side-to-side scrubs can actually damage your gum line. Use short strokes with the brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and brush up and down. Get every surface—outer and inner sides of your teeth, the back molars, and your tongue.
6. Switch it up.
When you get into too much of a routine with your brushing, you’ll get bored easily and might rush to get through it or miss some areas of your mouth entirely. Starting your brushing in a new place can help you stay mindful of what you’re doing.
7. After acid, let your teeth mellow.
We all know to avoid sweets as much as possible and how bad sugar is for our teeth, but acid is a real problem too. Energy drinks, sour candies, and diet sodas—and even fruit juices as well—contain acids that can soften tooth enamel. Waiting half an hour after consuming one of those acidic treats allows your tooth to restore some enamel. Brushing a softened tooth will wear away enamel that much faster.
8. Clean it up.
You don’t need to disinfect your toothbrush—a simple rinse will do to get rid of any remaining germs and remnants of toothpaste that can harden the bristles. Don’t stuff it away in a case where it can stay damp; let it air dry.
9. Stand it up.
The bathroom isn’t the greatest place to store a toothbrush in terms of sanitation. When you’re not using it, you want the head to be off the counter, where it could come into contact with germs from the toilet and sink. Let the brush breathe as it dries, and if you have more than one brush in the holder, don’t let the heads touch.
10. Freshen it up.
A newer brush is an efficient brush. The ADA recommends you replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, but if the bristles are starting to come apart and fray and lose their flexibility, the brush isn’t going to do a very good job of cleaning your teeth.