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Brushing Your Teeth


Brushing your teeth with a toothbrush is one of the most critical components to fighting bad oral health. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste to help prevent gum disease, tooth decay and cavities. Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss among adults. Other benefits to brushing your teeth daily includes removing stains left from food and drinks, as well as eliminating bad breath.

Brushing our teeth for oral health purposes has been around for thousands of years. In fact, ancient Egyptians constructed the first toothbrushes out of twigs and leaves to clean their teeth. Twigs were actually a very common ‘toothbrush’ for many years. Americans didn’t see a toothbrush until the end of the 19th century, and many Americans continued not brushing their teeth until after WWII when the soldiers continued brushing their teeth at home after their military service was complete. Brushing your teeth was, and still is, required in the military.

Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

There are two components to brushing your teeth; the toothbrush and the toothpaste. Toothbrushes are the tool you use to ‘brush’ your teeth and toothpaste is the aid you place onto the toothbrush to clean your teeth. Generally, toothpaste is filled with fluoride. Fluoride is the major ingredient in toothpaste that fights plaque, tartar and bad breath. It also strengthens tooth enamel. Sometimes the toothpaste has ingredients that promote things such as white teeth and/or sensitivity relief.

Toothbrushes come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and strengths within the bristles. Bristles can be either hard or soft. Most dentists recommend using a ‘soft’ toothbrush since the firmer bristles are known to damage tooth enamel and irritate your gums if you brush too hard. Toothbrushes also come as manual and electric. There is no better one, but many dentists recommend electric over manual since it’s more likely to reach the spots that are sometimes overlooked. However, any toothbrush that is comfortable and fits your routine will be a good choice for you. Electric toothbrushes can cost between $30-$150 depending on the manufacturer and where you purchase it.

Toothpastes also come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Some have less fluoride than others, while some are made for sensitive teeth. Some are made for kids and while other toothpaste comes in a ‘tooth powder.’ Toothpaste flavors range from minty to fruity to spicy cinnamon. Regardless of the toothpaste or toothbrush, dentists want to ensure you are brushing at least twice a day or after each meal.

Tooth Brushing Tips

Here are a few tips to help you brush your teeth correctly:

  • The ADA suggests wetting your toothbrush before applying toothpaste
  • Toothpaste doesn’t need to be excessively used each time. Contrary to product ads, large amounts of toothpaste are not needed to thoroughly clean and protect your teeth
  • Tooth powder is a great alternative for sensitive teeth
  • Use back and forth motions when brushing the biting surfaces
  • Use the same motions when brushing the outside of your front teeth
  • Hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle
  • Make sure you brush the insides of your teeth too (the tip of the toothbrush is essential for this)
  • Don’t forget to brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth

Page updated March 2011



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