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ADA Patient Library > Brushing

Brushing

A toothbrush is an important tool in the fight against tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Your toothbrush helps remove food and plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is always forming on your teeth. If plaque is not removed with regular brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can harden into calculus, also called tartar. Tartar buildup can lead to gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss. Tartar can only be removed when teeth are cleaned at the dental office.

Brush your teeth twice a day. Most dental professionals recommend brushing for at least two minutes each time. Your dentist or hygienist can show you how. It’s also important to clean your teeth with floss or another between-the-teeth cleaner daily. This helps remove food and plaque from between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. If you notice bleeding or gum recession, schedule a dental appointment.

ADA Seal

When shopping for a toothbrush, floss, and fluoride toothpaste, look for those that show the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. This says that the product meets the ADA’s standards for safety and effectiveness.

Choose a toothbrush in a size and shape that fits your mouth comfortably. Replace your toothbrush every three months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Worn toothbrushes won’t clean teeth properly.

If you have hand, arm, or shoulder problems that limit movement, a powered toothbrush may be easier for you to use. Your dental office may also recommend certain products for your oral health needs.

Brushing

The following is just one of several effective ways to clean your teeth.

1. Place your toothbrush against your gumline (where your teeth and gums meet) at a 45-degree angle. Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.

Brushing 1

2. Brush the outer tooth surfaces.

Brushing 2

3. Brush the inner tooth surfaces.

Brushing 3

4. Brush the chewing surfaces.

Brushing 4

5. Use the top part of the brush to clean the inside surface of the top and bottom front teeth. Use a gentle up-and-down motion.

Brushing 5

6. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Brushing 6

Eating a healthy diet, limiting snacks, and visiting your dentist regularly will help you keep your smile healthy for years to come.


American Dental Association

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