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Use Your Toothbrush Like a Champion with These 11 Tips

Closeup photo of toothbrush with toothpaste

What’s the best way to hold your toothbrush? Is an electric toothbrush more effective than a regular one? How long should you brush? These are all great questions! Here are the best practices of toothbrushing.

Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles, and use a gentle touch

When you use it regularly, a soft-bristled toothbrush will remove plaque and staining. Gently cover all areas of your teeth (front, back, and chewing surfaces). Brushing too forcefully or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear away your tooth enamel, which protects your teeth from bacteria and helps reduce tooth sensitivity.

Use an electric toothbrush if you can

While using a manual toothbrush is fine, an electric toothbrush will help you clean your teeth more thoroughly with less effort. An electric model can be especially helpful if you have a medical condition such as arthritis that makes brushing difficult. Both rotary and sonic-technology electric toothbrushes are widely available, and both kinds work equally well. Choose one that is most comfortable for you.

Use fluoride toothpaste

There are many specialized toothpastes available, but not all of them contain fluoride, which prevents cavities and keeps your tooth enamel strong. Whichever toothpaste you choose, be sure it contains this ingredient.

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle

When you hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle while you brush, you’ll do the best cleaning job between your teeth and gums. Here’s a helpful video from the American Dental Association.


Use short side-to-side strokes

Short strokes from side to side will help to scrub clean the surface of your teeth.

Brush your teeth twice a day

Brushing in the morning helps freshen your breath and rid your mouth of any bacteria that have built up during the night. At night—ideally, just before bed—brushing helps to fight plaque and to remove bacteria-causing food particles that may remain in your mouth.

Brush for two full minutes each time

Cartoon of toothbrush, phone timer set to two minutes, and a sparkling clean toothThink of your mouth as having four sections—upper left and right, and lower left and right. To be sure you’re cleaning all your teeth thoroughly, brush each section thoroughly for 30 seconds. Some electric toothbrushes have timers that stop the toothbrush automatically after two full minutes of brushing. Some will signal you every 30 seconds. But if you’re using a manual toothbrush, the easiest way to be sure you’re brushing long enough is to use the timer or stopwatch feature on your phone.

Wait 20-30 minutes before brushing after meals and snacks

The pH level in your mouth may be acidic after you have an acid-forming food or drink, such as citrus fruit or soda. When this is the case, brushing could be harmful to your teeth. “Waiting 20-30 minutes to brush allows your teeth to remineralize. In the meantime, it’s okay to rinse with water,” says Laura Steinmetz, RDH.

Brush your tongue

Brushing your tongue along with your teeth also removes bacteria and helps keep your breath fresh.

Change your toothbrush every three months

With proper regular use, a new toothbrush will be most effective for about three months. Switch it out for a new one (or switch to a new brush head if you use an electric model) regularly. This is easy to remember if you make the switch on the first day of each season, or add reminders in your phone.

Let your toothbrush air dry

Storing your toothbrush in a closed container immediately after brushing could lead to mold or bacteria growth. After you’ve brushed your teeth, rinse your brush and shake off the excess water, then stand it upright in a cup or container, preferably in a closed medicine cabinet, without allowing the bristles to touch any other toothbrush. This article has more helpful toothbrush care tips.

Remember. . .

Brushing your teeth takes only four minutes a day—and with your careful attention to these details, it can help you keep your teeth healthy for the rest of your life.