Things to avoid when brushing your teeth

Considering how often we brush our teeth (twice a day hopefully), it’s surprising how many things we may be doing wrong, or not doing at all.

Perhaps over time, we pick up bad habits which eventually become routine. Nevertheless, it’s important to ensure your teeth, gums and mouth are looked after properly. This doesn’t just mean brushing your teeth often enough, but properly too.

Here are a few common mistakes people tend to make when brushing their teeth:

Not brushing often enough

Let’s start with an obvious one. You should be brushing your teeth twice a day. Once in the morning and once before bed is ideal. 

Each time you brush you should be aiming for approximately two minutes. The average amount of time people spend brushing their teeth, however, is 45 seconds. This isn’t enough time for the fluoride to attach to the tooth enamel, leaving your teeth less protected against food and infection. It’s worth timing yourself when you brush your teeth, perhaps on your phone or listening to a song. It may surprise you how long two minutes seems at first. If this is the case, it’s likely you weren’t brushing for long enough, to begin with.

Brushing too often

A less common mistake than not brushing enough, however, is brushing your teeth too often which can do more harm than good.

You may have been told you should brush after every meal, however, this is unnecessary, and can erode your teeth enamel as well as irritate and damage your gums. The same goes for brushing your teeth for longer than two minutes.

Brushing technique

There are a few ways people go wrong when it comes to how they brush their teeth.

The ideal method to brushing your teeth is gently but firmly, in circular motions. You should focus on each tooth individually, ensuring you cover all areas. Side-to-side and up and down strokes can erode the soft tissue lining between your teeth and gums. Brushing in a circular motion is much softer. You should also hold the brush at a 45-degree angle, this way the bristles can clean the teeth and edge of the gums most effectively.

Another common problem is that many people tend to brush their teeth too hard, damaging the outer surface of the teeth and irritating the gums.

Using a hard toothbrush

Stiffer bristles can harm your gums and remove protective enamel. If you prefer using a manual toothbrush, you should opt for a brush with softer bristles. However, one way to combat this is to use an electric toothbrush. With a manual, people tend to use more pressure. With an electric, due to the vibrations, we feel it’s less necessary to apply more pressure and let the brush do the work.

Not replacing the brush often enough

If you brush your teeth twice a day, every day, then you should be aiming to use a new brush, or brush head, every three months. This is roughly 200 uses. After this time, the bristles begin to wear down and become less effective at removing dirt from your teeth. Also, after a while, dirt and bacteria will begin to accumulate on the brush, which is why it’s important to replace it.

Brushing just after eating

Once you’ve just finished eating, the saliva in your mouth is more acidic due to a drop in Ph levels. It’s important to wait for 30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth. This is enough time for the Ph levels in your mouth to return to normal. Otherwise, you’d be brushing the acidic saliva into your teeth enamel, which is damaging.

Rinsing mouth with water after brushing

Another very common mistake people make is rinsing their mouth with water just as they’ve finished brushing their teeth. Once you’ve finished brushing your teeth, the effects don’t take place instantly. Time is needed for the fluoride contained in toothpaste to soak into the teeth. If you are still tempted to rinse, you should use a mouthwash which contains fluoride instead of water.

There we have it. It’s easy to get caught into a habit of something when we do it often enough. If you can make a conscious effort to avoid making these mistakes, you’ll have a new, perfect routine in no time.

The important thing to remember about your teeth is to look after them, however, not too much. Teeth are very strong, and you only really need to maintain them by brushing twice a day, gently. Brushing too often or too hard will do more damage than good, and if your teeth or gums are hurting, this could be why. 

With thanks to author Callum Philips

Chris Edmonds BDS