1. You’re not brushing your teeth for long enough
Brushing for two minutes, but many people fall woefully short—and don’t even realize it. Different studies have timed people brushing their teeth and asked them how long they thought they did it for. Some people thought they’d brushed for a couple of minutes, but it can be less than half a minute. Our perception of how long we’re brushing is not very accurate. To take out the guesswork, use an electric toothbrush that beeps when you’ve reached two minutes, or use a timer on your phone or an egg timer.
2.You’re brushing too hard
If you brush your teeth like you would scour a pan with baked-on food, you’re doing more harm than good. When you press hard against your teeth and gums, you get a satisfying sensation that you’re really getting the teeth clean. “But it’s not making your teeth cleaner, and it can do harm.” The point of brushing is to remove plaque—a bacterial film—which is sticky but also soft, so you don’t need to go to town on your teeth to remove it. Pushing too hard can overstress the gum tissue and cause it to recede, exposing part of the tooth’s root. That area can become sensitive to hot and cold. The root is also more susceptible to cavities than the hard enamel part of the tooth.
3.Your angle is off
Brushing straight across like you’re playing the violin isn’t the best way to brush your pearly whites. You want to hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle—upward for your top teeth and downward for your bottom teeth—so the bristles can sweep and clean under the gum line where plaque can hide. Gently brush your teeth in small circles, as if you’re drawing tiny “O’s” on them. The exception: If you have an electric sonic toothbrush, you don’t need to angle the brush to 45 degrees. They’re designed to go straight on the tooth and you just hold it there for a few seconds.
4.Your toothbrush bristles are too firm
If you’ve noticed on drug store runs that it’s getting harder to find “firm” and “medium” bristles, you’re not imagining things. Those bristles are often too harsh for your teeth and gums, so most dentists don’t recommend them. Instead, choose soft or ultra-soft bristles that can gently get down under the gum line.Your gum is like a little turtleneck collar, and you need to get under that collar. “Hard and medium brushes don’t do that and can actually abrade the gum.”
5.Your toothbrush head is too big
Your toothbrush should fit your mouth comfortably—and in most cases, smaller is the way to go. Unless you have a large mouth, compact brush heads do a better job of helping you access those hard-to-reach and hard-to-see molars.
6.You’ve had the same toothbrush since last year
Over time, bristles become splayed out, bent, and curved so when you angle your brush to 45 degrees, they no longer point in the right direction. The bristles become even softer and stop working as effectively. Every three months, treat yourself to a new toothbrush.
7.You don’t consider flossing mandatory
That lonely container of dental floss that’s collecting dust in your medicine cabinet?Brushing alone is not enough. “Toothbrushes reach a little between teeth, but they don’t remove all of the plaque there. That’s where flossing and other products come in.” Not a fan of flossing? Try an interdental cleaner, such as an electric flosser, a bristled dental pick, or wooden dental sticks, which are just as effective as flossing. “When you brush and floss together, even though it seems inconvenient or cumbersome, it’s the best return on investment because of the enormous amount of disease you can prevent.
8.You think it’s no big deal to skip brushing your teeth before bed now and then
Turns out, it is a big deal. Ninety-eight percent of all dental disease can be avoided by brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once per day, along with having regular check-ups with your dentist. Dental disease is totally preventable, and a lot of it can be avoided by stepping up your home brushing program and having check-ups.