More than half of adult Americans claim they brush their teeth twice a day. While this is good news for the oral health of the population, the statistics do not show how many of these people are brushing properly.

The Right Toothbrush

Choosing the correct toothbrush is the first step toward good oral hygiene. The brush needs to fit comfortably in your mouth while the handle fits comfortably in your hand. Discomfort while brushing may indicate a poor fit. Whether the toothbrush is manual or electric is a matter of preference, but bristle softness is not. The American Dental Association recommends soft bristles so the brush can remove plaque gently without scraping the tender tissue of the gums or scratching the tooth enamel.

Brushing Technique

How a person brushes may be the most important factor in preventing oral issues such as plaque buildup and gum disease. Place the bristles against the upper part of the teeth at a 45-degree angle and brush in short, circular or vertical strokes for two to three minutes twice a day. Brushing more than three times per day may cause damage to enamel, while brushing only once a day could lead to the buildup of bacteria in the mouth.

It is important to brush the outer, inner, and chewing surface of each tooth, and some dentists recommend starting in a different place every time because by the end of the routine, some people may be less thorough than they are at the beginning of the routine. After brushing your teeth, don’t forget to brush your tongue as well to remove bacteria.

Toothbrush Maintenance

When the toothbrush removes the bacteria from the teeth and tongue, it remains on the toothbrush unless the brush is rinsed thoroughly under running water. After rinsing, it is just as important to shake out excess moisture and allow the toothbrush to air dry. If a cap is used, it should allow air in, since a moist toothbrush may breed even more bacteria. When bristles lose their flexibility and begin breaking apart, or if you have been using the same toothbrush for more than three months, it is time for a new brush.

Following these guidelines is the beginning of a good oral hygiene routine that protects teeth and gums from bacteria, cavities, and gum disease.