Brushing Your Teeth: 11 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong

Brushing teeth is confusion
<!--StartFragment-->Anthony Humphreys<!--EndFragment-->
<!--StartFragment-->Anthony Humphreys<!--EndFragment-->

Scrubbing the ol' teeth is a daily activity, and the average Joe probably thinks he’s got brushing down to a science. A bad science. Because that’s just it, there really is lab-tested technique behind brushing properly that eludes pretty much everyone’s daily routine. So we got on the phone with a brushing expert from the ranks of dental specialists at Philips Sonicare to get the rundown on all the ways you aren’t brushing right (and how to fix ‘em).

Sonicare at work
Anthony Humphreys

You’re only brushing twice a day

Brushing twice a day is the understood standard, but that's the minimum. Why? Because nasty film plagues your teeth after meals and can turn into hard-plaque shells, which literally can’t be cleaned without visiting the business end of a dentist chair. The solution? Brush periodically throughout the day to keep your teeth film-free. Just ignore the awkward deskmate glances.

You aren’t applying your brush head at the right angle

You want to put the brush flat on the teeth for maximum contact, right? Nope. Placing the brush at a 45-degree angle against your teeth, pointing toward the gumline, is the proper form. This applies a hard, consistent edge against the teeth and acts like a broom that not only cleans your enamel but also keeps the gums fresh.

You’re flossing in the morning

If you choose to opt for the (still totally acceptable) once-a-day floss routine, the experts recommend doing it at night. That evening nastiness gets a nice little kickstart if there’s junk between your teeth before shuteye. So, just like cleaning first thing is key, starting the Zs sans food bits is even more key.

Sleeping with germs

You’re only worried about fresh breath in the morning

Because we haven't eaten yet, we assume the morning brush is less important. Hey, you brushed after last night's dinner, that's good enough, right? Wrong. During the night, a combination of not drinking and not eating alongside consistent airflow make for a germ-growing environment that becomes exponentially more friendly toward decay-causing bacteria. So give your morning brush the same attention as any other.

You’re using bristles that are too firm (or too soft)

Brush heads are important because their arrangement, stiffness, and bristle density have all been optimized to clean your teeth in very specific ways. If you’re using hard bristles and have sensitive teeth, that’s not good. In general, flatly arranged bristles are best for overall cleaning, but bristles that form a stuck-out point on the tip are good for cleaning gum pockets. 

You’re not worried about gum health

Gums are not only the most neglected part of oral health, but they’re one of the most important. Aside from the fact that the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean promises healthier gums in general, our expert pointed out that the gum health setting offers a wider-cycle movement to clean the gum pockets and keep them tough.

You’re manual brushing in crazy circles or hap-hazard shapes

It turns out you probably shouldn’t also be rocking the circular brush strokes folks were taught about in the past. According to the Philips dental folks, the right movement is short, quick back-and-forths with that 45-degree angle mentioned earlier, and then a quick, flicking sweep from the gumline to the biting edge of the tooth.

Brushing teeth in the bathroom

You’re using a toothbrush that isn’t optimized by nerdy formulas

There are a lot of studies that support electric toothbrushes’ prowess when compared to manual cleaning, but what makes toothbrushes like the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean stand out? Well, the exhaustive research and testing that’s gone into the thing is enough to make even an engineer’s head spin.

You’re moving your electric brush like you would a manual

With an electric toothbrush like the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean, all those discussed movements completely change. The brush itself does the quick brushing strokes employed up there (31,000 of them per minute, to be specific), so all you have to do is move it slowly and smoothly over every tooth, front and back, sweeping along the gumline.

You’re following the 2-minute rule

Our expert stressed that it's not about how much time you spend, but about getting full coverage on the teeth. If you can handle that in a minute (because you have fives arms like that fella up there), then great! Just make sure that nasty film is off the teeth and you’re golden… well, the teeth are probably white. But you get the point.

Your toothbrush settings aren’t optimized for your teeth

A brush like the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean offers a variety of settings to fit pretty much any mouth. Got teeth with gentle souls? The sensitive tooth setting has you covered. Want to focus on getting pearly whites? There's a setting for that too. Dracula teeth? Not yet, but we're sure they're working on it.

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