How to Brush Your Teeth Properly

It is important that you know how to brush your teeth properly to prevent conditions such as gingivitis and tooth decay. Incorrect brushing technique can also lead to tooth abrasion, a condition in which the surface of the tooth is worn away. The number one cause of tooth abrasion is from a toothbrush. The delicate gum tissue is also at risk for damage from the toothbrush bristles, causing tooth sensitivity from exposed root surfaces. Follow these instructions, and learn how to brush your teeth properly.

This technique is also recommended when assisting a child or someone who needs help with their brushing.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Two Minutes

Woman smiling while brushing her teeth
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How to Brush Your Teeth

  1. Apply a thin strip of toothpaste on your premoistened toothbrush.
  2. Start with the upper left molars (back teeth) concentrating on the front surface of the tooth; you will be working in a clockwise direction from there. The average toothbrush head will cover 2 to 3 teeth at a time.
  3. Hold the toothbrush parallel to your teeth, and point the bristles in the direction of the tissue, so they are resting slightly below the gumline. Apply slight pressure to the bristles, so they are slightly bent.
  4. Gently move the brush in a circular motion for approximately 20 brush strokes or roughly 10 seconds.
  5. When brush strokes are complete, roll the bristles away from the gum tissue in a sweeping motion.
  6. Continue the above steps until all of the front surfaces of the top and bottom teeth have been cleaned.
  7. Moving on to the inside surfaces of the teeth, repeat steps 2 to 5 for the upper and lower premolars and molars.
  8. When you are ready to clean the inside surface of the front teeth, known as the lingual surface, take the tip of the toothbrush, and in a flicking motion, direct the toothbrush from the gum line down. Do this 2 to 3 times.
  9. Follow step 8 for the inside of the lower front teeth, but this time the flick will be directed up, again, away from the gumline. Do this 2 to 3 times.
  10. Brush the biting surface of the upper and lower premolars and molars.
  11. Gently brush your tongue and the inside of your cheeks.

Tips for Brushing

  1. Always brush twice a day, preferably first thing in the morning and again right before you go to sleep. Try not to eat or drink anything once you have brushed in the evening.
  2. When brushing someone else's teeth, try to stand behind them so you are looking down on their mouth. This will allow easier access to the mouth and a better view of their teeth. If they are taller than you, have them sit in a chair.
  3. Replace your toothbrush every three months or when you notice the bristles starting to bend and look worn out. Always replace your toothbrush after you recover from a cold or the flu.
  4. The above steps are suitable for use with an electric toothbrush, although the final roll may be eliminated if using a round oscillating brush head.
  5. When brushing the inside surfaces of the upper and lower teeth (steps 8 and 9), try to avoid standing too close to your mirror, as the flick will usually cause some spray.

What You Need

  • An extra soft or soft-bristled manual toothbrush.
  • Your choice of toothpaste. One that contains fluoride is preferred.
  • Water or mouth rinse.
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By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.