Many of us think that brushing our teeth three times a day is enough to keep them clean and avoid dental health problems, right?
Experience tells us that this is not necessarily the case. Simply brushing your teeth does not guarantee that bacteria and plaque buildup will be removed from your mouth.
In this article we will look at some of the mistakes you may be making when brushing your teeth that make brushing ineffective.
1. Not brushing for enough time
The most common mistake when performing daily oral hygiene is to do it quickly and unconsciously.
We recommend that you brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day. Do not stop brushing before going to bed. We usually brush an average of between 45 and 70 seconds a day, that is, between 23 and 35 seconds each time if we do it twice a day, which is less than half the recommended time.
If you use a regular toothbrush, we recommend using the timer on your phone, watch or a sand timer to monitor and ensure the time required for a good brushing. Most electric toothbrushes “buzz” at 30-second intervals, so you can divide your mouth into 4 zones, top to bottom, left to right, and spend 30 seconds on each section.
2. Rinse your mouth after brushing
A common mantra repeated by our hygienists is “spit, don’t rinse” after brushing your teeth (that includes rinsing with water and mouthwash). Rinsing your teeth removes fluoride and the protective properties of the toothpaste from the enamel.
It’s often a difficult gesture to get into, but as with any new routine, the longer you manage to stick with it, the easier it becomes to make it a habit.
3. Using the wrong toothpaste
While there is no “best” toothpaste for everyone in the world, make sure your toothpaste contains enough fluoride: for adults, it’s between 1,350 and 1,500 parts per million, read as ppm on the tube. Fluoride is essential to prevent tooth decay.
If you choose vegan alternatives, check if they contain fluoride as many brands exclude it from their formulation, fluoride at these concentrations, according to the FDA, is not toxic.
4. Brushing at the wrong time
The first thing you want to do when you feel sick is pick up your toothbrush to get rid of the bad taste in your mouth. Don’t do it. When we get sick our body acidifies, comparable to drinking or eating acidic foods (think of your morning juice), and this acid removes the protective layer of saliva that is normally on the teeth making brushing more abrasive.
We recommend that you wait 30 minutes for the pain reliever you take to reduce your inflamed state before brushing to give this layer time to recover (you can rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash to remove the bad taste).
At the other end of the scale of untimely brushing is not brushing at all. Nighttime cleaning is the most important to remove deposits that have accumulated from eating and drinking during the day, as well as to remove the bacteria that are the cause of both tooth decay and gum disease. Don’t skip it because you’re tired!
5. Brushing too hard
Using an incorrect brushing technique, along with excessive force, can wear down teeth and cause gums to recede. Brushing harder will not leave teeth cleaner. Many electric toothbrushes have a sensor that flashes a light if you brush too vigorously and too hard.
You should brush at a slight angle, rather than at right angles to your teeth, and focus on each tooth (tooth by tooth) rather than in a side-to-side scrubbing motion.
6. Using the wrong toothbrush
Manual or electric? A recurring debate…
In favor of the latter we can say that it is very difficult to clean wisdom teeth well with a manual toothbrush, so people often skip the back of the mouth during brushing. However, an electric toothbrush can clean wisdom teeth much better without too much maneuvering.
An electric toothbrush can also tell you if you are applying too much pressure on your teeth and gums and gives you a little alert to let you know that enough time is being spent.
Whether electric or manual, be careful when choosing bristles. These should be soft or medium rather than hard, remember you want to clean your teeth gently, without damaging your teeth and gums. The same goes for the size of the brush: a larger brush head is not necessary, since you want to cover the surface of one tooth at a time (to make sure you clean each tooth effectively), and be able to reach all the teeth.
7. Using an old toothbrush or toothbrush head.
When the bristles wear out, your brushing becomes less effective. That’s why it’s recommended to change your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3 months – think about replacing it every season if you don’t remember when you started using it.
It is also important to change your toothbrush if you have been sick, bacteria grow on your toothbrush and a new toothbrush can prevent you from getting infected again.
8. Flossing only on the front of your teeth
Some people floss only the teeth they can reach instead of flossing between all teeth. Flossing doesn’t just remove food, it also removes fine plaque and biofilm between the teeth and gums, important for preventing cavities and gum disease.
9. Do not use interdental brushes
Whenever possible, it is recommended to use an interdental brush along with dental floss. While floss can reach between the gums, if used correctly, an interdental brush is still needed to clean the sides of the teeth, which is a spot that the toothbrush and floss sometimes do not have easy access to.
10. Substitute flossing for brushing or mouthwash.
An electronic toothbrush head with a “floss action” function is not a substitute for flossing. It would be like rinsing before cleaning.
Although the above are general “mistakes,” oral hygiene tips can vary from person to person, as they depend on a number of factors related to the individual (such as lifestyle, genetics and current oral health).
It is best to see a dental hygienist regularly, who can show you techniques and offer personalized recommendations for your oral health care at home, and can follow up on your teeth and gums to make sure everything is going well.