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Updated on December 12, 2022
6 min read

How to Brush Your Teeth

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How to Brush Your Teeth Properly

Oral hygiene is an important part of your overall well-being, but if you are not cleaning your teeth properly, it can cause major problems.

This is why it is essential to use the correct tools (like the right toothbrush and toothpaste) to maintain optimal oral health

In this article, we will cover proper brushing techniques and the best toothbrushes for maintaining good oral hygiene. 

How to Brush Your Teeth With an Electric Toothbrush

Using an electric toothbrush can decrease your chances of developing gum disease, tooth decay, and gum recession. Many people report that their mouths feel much cleaner and their teeth are whiter using an electric toothbrush. 

Electric toothbrushes are not created equal. This is why it is important to make sure the one you choose has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. You should also read the instructions prior to use. Also, it is wise to discuss the brush type with your dentist prior to use. 

The brushing steps for an electric toothbrush are similar to that of a manual brush, except you choose a setting prior to use. 

Electric toothbrushes have different modes (depending on your oral care needs).

Common modes include daily brushing, brushing to maximize whitening, gum health, and a gentle setting. Some even have a built-in timer to keep you on track with brushing for two minutes. 

When using an electric toothbrush, remember to:

  • Charge your electric toothbrush
  • Wet your brush and squeeze an ideal amount of fluoride toothpaste
  • Use the brush on a 45-degree angle to reach your gum line
  • Use light pressure in small circles 
  • Brush each quadrant for about 30 seconds before moving on to the next
  • Rinse your mouth and rinse the brush off before your next use

How to Brush Your Teeth With a Manual ToothBrush

Many people who don’t prefer the vibrating features or the higher price point of an electric brush opt for a manual toothbrush. 

There is little difference between brushing with a manual and electric toothbrush, except that you apply the pressure on your own. 

The steps for brushing with a traditional, manual toothbrush include: 

  • Wetting your toothbrush with cold water
  • Applying a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste
  • Using a 45-degree angle to brush the gum lines of your teeth
  • Brushing for two minutes in tiny circles along the gum line
  • Brushing your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria
  • Rinse and spit, and rinse your toothbrush before leaving it upright in a container or holder

Is an Electric or Manual Toothbrush Better?

There is a lot of debate about which type of toothbrush (electric or manual brush) is more effective at plaque removal.

There are upsides and downsides to both types of toothbrushes. But if you are using them correctly, there shouldn’t be much of a difference.

Some researchers say an electric toothbrush is more effective because it has varying power options and can help with dexterity issues in younger children or arthritic adults. They also have rotating-oscillating heads with vibrating bristles that help remove plaque. 

While electric toothbrushes have more gadgets like timers and music to keep you interested in brushing, if you don’t brush the correct way or for the right amount of time, it won’t help prevent oral diseases like gingivitis and periodontal disease. 

The ADA reports both electric and manual brushes as effective in removing plaque and food debris and does not claim one is better than the other. 

How Long Should You Brush Your Teeth?

The ADA recommends brushing for a minimum of two minutes, twice a day with an ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste.

While many people report they brush under the recommended two minutes, it means you may not be removing all the plaque and debris that build up along the teeth and gums. A helpful hint is to set a timer or buy a toothbrush with a built-in timer to help remind you of the two minutes. 

Should You Brush Before or After Flossing? 

There is a lot of controversy about whether you should floss before or after brushing. It is recommended that you should floss first so the toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste can reach well between the teeth. 

If you brush and then floss, don’t worry, it is still good that you’re flossing. But try and change the order of your routine to effectively prevent food and plaque from remaining in the crevices of your teeth. 

How to Help Children Brush Their Teeth 

Setting good oral care habits early in life can make a difference in a person’s oral health.

When children learn to brush and floss daily, they carry these habits into adulthood and hopefully prevent oral diseases like tooth decay and gum disease. 

Learning to brush your teeth can be tricky for youngsters who don’t have the dexterity or attention span to brush properly. Children under age 6 usually need adult assistance. 

There are many ways to get your child excited about brushing their teeth. Reading stories and watching videos about other kids brushing can be a good motivator. You can also brush and floss next to them in the morning and evening so it becomes a part of their daily routine. 

Teach children to brush their teeth by following these steps (until they are independent):

  1. Rinse the toothbrush with a small amount of cold water
  2. Put a pea-size amount of toothpaste on the brush
  3. Set a timer for 2 minutes
  4. Brush gently along all areas of the mouth
  5. Brush your tongue
  6. Rinse and spit and remember to put the toothbrush upright

Common Tooth Brushing Mistakes

Brushing your teeth seems like an easy task, but even adults make common mistakes. 

The most common brushing errors include:

  • Using a hard or medium bristle brush — only use a soft headed toothbrush.
  • Not brushing for long enough — you should be brushing for a minimum of two minutes.
  • Using an excessive amount or not enough toothpaste — use a pea-sized amount.
  • Not brushing twice a day — many people don’t brush after breakfast and before bed.
  • Brushing too hard — brushing hard can cause wearing away of the gums and tooth sensitivity.
  • Failure to reach all tooth surfaces — this can cause plaque buildup, cavities, and gum disease. 

Other Oral Health Tips for Clean Teeth

One of the greatest things you can do is ask your dentist and hygienist for oral hygiene tips.

They can tell you which areas you’re not reaching well in your mouth and if there are any special hygiene tools that can help improve your oral health.

Other good oral health tips to maintain a clean mouth include remembering to floss or using a water flosser. This will help remove interdental plaque and food that contributes to tooth decay and gum disease. 

Maintaining a healthy diet is half the battle of keeping good oral health. You need to limit sugar intake and remember to drink a lot of water. 

Lastly, always visit your dentist every six months for routine cleanings. If your dentist recommends treatment, try to get it done in a timely manner to avoid dental problems from escalating or causing pain.

Last updated on December 12, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 12, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. How To Brush Your Teeth,” mouthhealthy. 
  2. The Effect of Brushing Time and Dentifrice on Dental Plaque Removal in vivo,” adha. 
  3. Brushing Your Teeth: Does Timing Matter?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 June 2019.
  4. Different Methods and Steps.” Proper Tooth Brushing Techniques. “ openlab. 
  5. Oral Health Topics: Toothbrushes,” ada. 
  6. Deinzer, Renate, et al. “Toothbrushing: to the Best of One's Abilities Is Possibly Not Good Enough.” BMC Oral Health, BioMed Central, 19 Oct. 2018.
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