It turns out that brushing teeth too hard can be an issue. You may think the harder you scrub, the cleaner they’ll be. But you may just be damaging your enamel and pushing your gums away from your teeth. This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
The right way to brush your teeth
If you’re like me, you spent most of your life scrubbing away forcefully at your teeth to make sure no germ survived the process. Well, stop that right now. This can push back your gums and expose the roots of your teeth, leading to tooth sensitivity and possibly even the need for gum surgery. (Trust me, gum surgery is hideous and disgusting and expensive.)
There are a couple of correct ways to brush your teeth. Here’s the best one based on my experience, and on the advice of several dentists.
- Get an electric toothbrush. I like the Oral B Pro 1000. It’s rechargeable, affordable, and it has worked well for me for a couple of years now. Before that, I used battery powered ones which were very easy on the wallet. The only problem was, they would gradually slow down the whole time I was using them. Suddenly one day I would realize it had been a few weeks since my teeth felt as clean as they used to. With the rechargable brush, I never have that problem. (I still use a battery powered one for travel.) I also like the small round heads better than the big traditional ones, and some dentists have told me they’re better for getting in all the nooks and crannies.
- Always use a soft-bristled head.
- Because the bristles move so fast, you can just gently rest them against your teeth and slowly move from one spot to the next. This will get your teeth cleaner than any amount of hand scrubbing ever could have.
- Electric toothbrush packaging advises spending a full minute on tooth brushing. With the way I move my brush slowly over my teeth, it does take about a minute to get everything.
- Never press. My brush has a sensor which flashes red if I’m pressing. The brush only needs to touch the teeth.
- The stroke. Forget circular strokes or side-to-side strokes. Turn the brush up at a forty-five degree angle and place it so the outer edge of the brush is against your gums. Stroke downward over the tooth, slowly. You’re just using the edge of the brush, but because the bristles are moving to vigorously, you will get your teeth very clean, all the way up to the gum line, without putting any damaging pressure on the gums. You can also gently slide the brush horizontally over tooth surfaces.
- Where to brush. Be absolutely sure to brush every surface of every tooth. That means the backs and fronts, plus the bottoms/tops of your molars. Also brush the backs of your back molars. Brush your tongue to remove some of the bacteria that grows on it. (You can also use a tongue scraper for this.)
- How often. Various studies contradict each other, but my dentists still recommend you brush at least twice a day. If you seem to develop tartar faster than some people, you may need to brush after each and every meal. I found brushing 3 times a day made my teeth sensitive. I brush twice and use a little plastic toothpick to “pick” my teeth after every meal and snack.
- Flossing. Even if you use picks after meals, it’s still wise to floss at least once a day. The trick with floss is to sort of wrap it around the side of each tooth as best you can, and then work it up and down. This cleans a good chunk of the surface that’s likely to accumulate food bits.