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Don’t Make These Tooth Brushing Mistakes

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Medically reviewed by: Dr Shan Lam BDS (Bris)

Dental Hygiene

Most of us don't know we're making tooth brushing mistakes! We just do what we've always done, until someone shows us what we're doing wrong.

by Holland Park Dental Centre on Dental Health, Dental Hygiene and General Dentistry

Don’t Make These Tooth-Brushing Mistakes

Have you ever been to the dentist and been told you aren’t brushing your teeth properly? It may come as quite a shock since most of us have been brushing our teeth for as long as we can remember. How could we be doing it wrong? Don’t worry these tooth brushing mistakes are a lot more common than you might think.

You might not have been taught correctly at young age or you might have just adopted a few bad habits over the years. It’s never too late to mend your ways though. Keeping your teeth clean is one of the best things you can do for your body.

More than just your smile is affected by poor dental hygiene. Plaque forms on your teeth every time you eat and drink. If not properly cleaned, the plaque can eventually turn into tartar, which can, in turn, result in tooth decay and even gum disease.


Related: It’s only a bit of gum disease… isn’t it?


The best way to prevent dental disease is to improve your brushing technique. Even if you think you are taking proper care of your teeth and gums, you might be missing some important steps. Keep reading to see what kind of tooth brushing mistakes you want to avoid.

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Tooth Brushing Mistake 1: Brushing only in the morning

We all find the time to brush our teeth in the morning. We know we need to and we all want to freshen our breath and clean our teeth after a nighttime of dryness and bacteria build up. However, we are all also guilty of feel exhausted and either falling in to bed with a lousy quick brush of our teeth or omitting it all together.  Nighttime is when bacteria are able to sit in your mouth for the longest period of time, so you should make a serious effort to brush and floss thoroughly when you are done eating and drinking for the day.

Related: Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?


Tooth Brushing Mistake 2: You are using the wrong kind of toothbrush.

Only the scale of soft to hard, we would always recommend the softer bristled tooth brush.  Many of the cheaper options in the supermarkets will be too hard and could hurt your gums. You do not need to scrub your teeth to remove soft plaque, the sweeping motion of the softer brushes will remove daily build up perfectly well and will prevent damage and loss of your gums and enamel.

You should also be replacing your toothbrush every 3 months and after any bought of illness. Worn-out bristles are less able to tackle the plaque and food particles from your teeth. Try to buy a tooth brush with wear indicators, they’re a great visual reminder to change your brush!


Tooth Brushing Mistake 3: You’re using too much toothpaste.

You should be using about a pea-sized amount of toothpaste each time. If you use more than that your mouth may mistakenly feel cleaner than it really is and the foam can fool you into thinking you’ve been brushing for long enough. Using a smaller right amount of toothpaste will help you keep track of how clean your teeth are, and if you have been brushing for long enough.


Tooth Brushing Mistake 4: You’re brushing for less than 2 minutes.

Rushing through the teeth brushing process when you are in a hurry to get to work in the morning or to get to sleep at night is easily done and you can be forgiven once in a while. But, brushing for less than 2 minutes means you’re putting your teeth and gums at risk of decay and gum disease.

Try setting a stop watch and turning it over, brush your teeth for as long as you THINK two minutes is, then look at the clock. Take your time and divide your teeth into 4 sections and spend 30 seconds on each section.


Tooth Brushing Mistake 5: You’re using the wrong technique.

Any dental hygienist can tell you that not all brushing techniques are created equal. Most people think they are brushing correctly but may actually be missing some important steps, we just do what we have always done – until someone tells us we’ve been getting it wrong.

In addition to the other instructions in this list, to brush correctly you should begin by rinsing your mouth with water. This helps clear a significant amount of food particles before you even begin brushing. Next, brush every corner of your mouth, including gums, tongue, and all surfaces of your teeth.

Brush softly using small circles and make sure to thoroughly clean each tooth. Big, fast brushstrokes may hurt your gums and do little to actually clean your teeth. Once finished, avoid rinsing with water. You want the fluoride to remain on your teeth as long as possible. If you can, it’s a good idea to rinse with a fluoride rinse before bed.

If you want some tooth brushing instructions, please just ask at your next hygiene or dental exam appointment – we would be more than happy to demonstrate the best technique for you and for your tooth brush type. (Things are little different if you use an electric toothbrush)

Tooth Brushing Mistake 6: You’re not flossing every day.

It’s the question everyone dreads at the dentist’s office: “How often do you floss?” For most of us, the answer is, “Not often enough.” While not technically “brushing,” flossing is the best way to grab food and bacteria from in between teeth and should be part of everyone’s teeth brushing routine.


These teeth brushing mistakes can be extremely costly in the long run. Cavities and gum inflammation can quickly become root canals and periodontal disease. These conditions are costly and usually quite painful. Not to mention, periodontal disease can have implications for the rest of your health as well, far beyond that of your mouth.

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