14 Ways You Might Be Brushing Your Teeth Wrong

14 Ways You Might Be Brushing Your Teeth Wrong

By Amanda Schupak
December 1, 2015

1. Your toothbrush bristles aren’t soft enough.

When you bought your toothbrush did it say “Soft” or “Extra Soft” on the package? No? Then it’s probably the wrong toothbrush. Hard bristles can weaken tooth enamel. You also want the head of the brush to be small enough to easily reach all your teeth.

2. You’re brushing too hard.

Going at your chompers like you’re sandblasting a floor is just going to do more damage to your tooth enamel and can even hurt your gums and lead to gum recession. If you simply can’t control your strength, an angled handle can help ease the pressure on your teeth.

3. You’re holding your toothbrush too tightly.

If you’re holding your toothbrush with Kung Fu grip, it’ll make you more likely to saw away in a manner that can wear away your enamel. Find a brush with a handle that is easy to hold with a light grip.

4. And at the wrong angle.

The American Dental Association recommends holding the surface of the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the front of your teeth. Then, brush in small strokes (think one-tooth-at-a-time) or in tiny circles. Don’t forget the insides, too, as well as the chewing surfaces.

5. You don’t watch what you’re doing.

Multitasking is a great way to do two things poorly. Rather than checking Instagram or wandering around the house while you brush, look at yourself in the mirror. (Oh, hey there.) Focus to make sure you get all your teeth, all the way up to the gum line—even those guys way in the back.

6. You don’t brush for long enough.

The ADA says you should brush for at least two minutes. Some dentists recommend going up to four minutes. Check the clock—or invest in a powered toothbrush with a timer.

7. You skip brushing before bed.

Of course, after a long day (or a long night) sometimes we all just want to say phooey to our hygiene routines and flop in bed. But just think of it this way: That’s seven or eight (or 11) uninterrupted hours for bacteria to do their dirty work, irritating your gums and causing tooth decay, and for plaque to harden into tartar.

8. You forget to brush your tongue, too.

Your tongue is actually one of the biggest sources of bad breath on account of all the microbes and food debris that get stuck on it. Get that gunk off. According to the ADA, studies have shown that just brushing your tongue can reduce bad breath by as much as 70 percent.

9. You fail at flossing.

To paraphrase the late, hilarious standup Mitch Hedberg, we know it’s as hard to start flossing as it is to stop smoking. But there’s a reason your dentist is always giving you a hard time about it. The food hiding between your teeth that so eludes your toothbrush’s bristles harbors bacteria that cause tooth decay. Oh, and PS, dragon breath, that stuff stinks, too.

10. Your toothbrush is too old.

Bristles become frayed and worn over time, which makes them less effective at cleaning and potentially more damaging to the teeth. Plus, cracked or broken bristles are havens for bacteria. Get a new brush every three or four months.

11. You disinfect your toothbrush constantly.

This can actually just make your toothbrush age faster. The best way to clean your toothbrush is to rinse it thoroughly under the tap and store it upright to air-dry.

12. You keep your toothbrush in a covered holder.

It’s OK for protecting it while traveling, but routinely storing your brush in a closed, moist container is more conducive to microbial growth.

13. You replace your toothbrush every time you get sick.

No need! Whatever germs are on your brush are the same ones your body just built up a bunch of antibodies against. Don’t waste your money.

14. You use your boo’s brush.

Your body is not prepared to fight of someone else’s germies, however, so using their toothbrush increases your risk of infections.

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