A BIG PART of keeping your teeth and gums healthy is your toothbrush. While that may seem incredibly obvious, you may be surprised at how many simple mistakes people make when it comes to their toothbrush. As your South San Francisco dentist, we want to make sure you're maximizing your teeth-cleaning tools! Take our quiz below to find out how you stack up, and gain a few new toothbrushing tips too.
1. How Often Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?
a) Whenever it looks old
b) Every year
c) Every 4 months
Correct Answer: Give your toothbrush a good look and check out the bristles. Are they frayed or bent? Are some missing? If you answered "yes" to any of these, you might be well overdue for a replacement toothbrush. The American Dental Association recommends that we replace our toothbrushes at least three times a year, or every 4 months, because old, worn-out bristles don't do a very effective job of cleaning teeth. When you come in for your next appointment, check with your dentist about whether it's time to replace your toothbrush!
2. How Long Should You Be Brushing For?
a) 30 seconds
b) 2 minutes
c) 5 minutes
Correct answer: Although dentists everywhere advise patients to brush for two full minutes, the reality is most of us spend on average only about 45 seconds brushing! This simply isn’t long enough to get the full cleaning effect. The repeated motions are what clear plaque and food particles away, and we wouldn't want to skimp on that. Try to get closer to the recommended two minutes by dividing your mouth into four quadrants, and spending 30 seconds brushing each quadrant. You can also play a song or set a timer to help you keep time.
3. How Hard Should You Brush?
b) The harder the better
Correct Answer: When we’re cleaning grout out of the tiles in the kitchen or scrubbing the food residue off the stovetop, it often requires a little elbow grease. While it may seem like the same logic applies to our teeth and gums, that's actually not true. In fact, brushing too hard or using a firm-bristled brush can actually result in bleeding or gum recession over time so we recommend soft bristles and a gentle hand. Brushing harder does not mean brushing better!
4. How Long Should You Wait to Brush After Eating
b) Wait 30 minutes
c) Two Hours
Correct Answer: One of the most common mistakes people make with brushing is to do so immediately after a meal. This isn’t a great idea because the acids in our food and drink temporarily weaken our tooth enamel. If we brush then, we can accidentally cause enamel erosion. That’s why waiting at least half an hour to brush is a good idea; it gives our saliva enough time to neutralize the acid and begin the remineralization process.
5. Toothbrush Covers Are a Good Way to Keep My Toothbrush Clean
Correct Answer: To keep a toothbrush fresh and devoid of moisture-loving bacteria, we should always store our toothbrushes upright and give them enough air flow to dry out. That means no more toothbrush covers! If your toothbrush carries a funky smell, it could be because you aren’t giving it a chance to fully dry between uses. (And also keep them as far from the toilet as possible.)
6. How Should You Hold Your Brush to Your Gums?
b) 45 degrees
Correct Answer: Even brushing twice a day for the full two minutes with a soft-bristled brush that you store correctly won’t guarantee results if your brushing technique is poor. Keep in mind that the goal is to get plaque and food particles out of the gumline. To do this, hold the brush at a 45° angle to your gums and gently sweep it in circular motions. Brush each area of the mouth at least fifteen times, both on the outside and the tongue side, as well as the chewing surfaces. Instead of shoving or pushing your toothbrush back and forth, aim to move your toothbrush in small, circular up-and-down motions.
How Did You Score?
Were you surprised by some of the new things you learned? Or did you get a perfect score? Don't worry if you didn't. We all need a refresher sometimes. If you’d like any more tips about how to get the most out of your toothbrush, whether you’re looking for ways to improve your technique, or recommendations on the best toothbrush for you, we’re here to help. And don’t forget the importance of flossing each day too!
If it's been more than six months since your last check-up and cleaning or if you have any oral health concerns, schedule your next visit today. Call or text us at (650) 871-1400 or schedule your appointment online.