Oral Hygiene 101

How to Brush Your Teeth

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Brushing your teeth wisks away food particles, cleans and massages your gums, and helps to eliminate decay- causing plaque.

Brushing your teeth serves a number of purposes: It whisks away food particles, cleans and massages your gums, helps to eliminate decay-causing plaque, and freshens your breath. While not a panacea for all dental ills, brushing is an essential armament in the fight against decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. 

Even though it's something most of us do every day, it doesn't hurt to get a refresher course on brushing, because using the proper brushing technique is just as important as vigilance. 

  • Choose a routine and stick to it. Establishing a proper and habitual method of brushing your teeth will go a long way toward preventing dental caries and gum disease.
  • Always start in the same place in your mouth. This will help ensure that all parts of your mouth get cleaned every time. A good place to start is the hard-to-reach rear molars, which need the most time and attention.
  • Press gently at a 45-degree angle. Scrub the front of the tooth and gum for a few seconds using a small circular motion. In the same manner, move slowly around your mouth until you get to the other side. Pay particular attention to your gum line, because this is where gingivitis takes hold.
  • After you've worked your way to the other side of your mouth, rotate the brush so that it rests against the back of your tooth and gum, and use the same angle and same circular scrubbing motion as you return to the first tooth.
  • Next, briskly brush along the top face, or chewing surface, of your teeth.
  • Then repeat the entire process on your upper or lower set of teeth (depending on where you started).
  • Lastly, don't neglect the roof of your mouth and your tongue. These surfaces also harbor harmful, plaque-causing bacteria.
  • Rinse out your mouth.

Invest in high technology. A number of scientifically designed manual and electric toothbrushes are available, each with its own promise to remove plaque like no brush before it ever could. This is one area where innovation is more than just talk.  Comfort and ease of use are among the most valuable benefits conferred by the high-tech toothbrushes. Many come with features that make them easier to hold and manipulate in your mouth and that help you get to areas that were difficult to reach with the older, standard toothbrushes.  Variable-length bristles, which are cut into specific shapes, and interdental cleaners such as picks and floss, can help penetrate the tight spaces between teeth and gums.

Trust the experts. If you'd like to try a new type of brush or other dental cleaning device but can't make a choice, ask your dentist or hygienist for advice (they might even give you samples to try). If you're on your own, choose a toothbrush with soft bristles or other dental cleaning devices that have the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance on the label. 

Get plugged in. If you are unable to use a manual toothbrush, an electric brush may be a good alternative. 

Proper brushing technique is important, but it isn't enough to hold off dental disease and cavities. Flossing is a vital part of your oral hygiene regimen -- keep reading to learn more.

Your teeth need lots of care and attention to ensure life-long good oral health. Visit the links below for more information about protecting and caring for your teeth.

  • If you're not vigilant in your oral hygiene, an assortment of afflictions can attack your teeth and gums. Learn more in How Dental Disease Works.
  • Do you wish your teeth had just a bit more sparkle to them? How Tooth Whitening Works takes a look at procedures you can undergo to brighten your pearly whites.
  • When you have an ache in your teeth, getting rid of it is the only thought in your head. In How to Relieve a Tooth Ache, find out how to deal with dental distress.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.