When it comes to fun ways to spend an afternoon, dental appointments come in somewhere above tax audits and below everything else in the known universe. It’s just not fun to have someone else’s hands in your mouth as they poke you with sharp instruments while asking about your summer vacation plans and critiquing your flossing technique.
Luckily, there are a few ways to make your dentist appointments easier—and it starts with learning the right way to brush your teeth. If you brush incorrectly, the bacteria in plaque (that sticky film that builds up on your teeth) can cause tooth decay and gum disease, unless it’s removed regularly through effective brushing. Turns out that what many of us learned during childhood dental visits was simply incorrect or has been updated as toothbrush technology has improved.
Here’s how you’ve been brushing your teeth wrong and how to fix it:
Using the Wrong Toothbrush
When you’re picking out a new brush at the pharmacy, avoid hard bristle brushes as they can damage delicate gum tissue. Instead look for a toothbrush marked “soft” and choose a size or shape that will easily fit in your mouth and allow you to access all areas easily.
Not Replacing Your Toothbrush Often Enough
While most people wait to pick up a new toothbrush until they’re at the dentist, you actually need to replace them more often. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends getting a new brush every two or three months or as soon as your bristles look frayed or are splaying outwards. Old brushes simply aren’t as effective against plaque.
Brushing In Circles
Manyof us were told by helpful hygienists to brush in tiny circles to get all the plaque out. Turns out this is no longer the best technique. Nowadays, the ADA recommends “gently moving the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.” Using those short strokes, hit the outer and inner surfaces of each tooth and then the chewing surfaces. As for those tricky front teeth, “tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.”