You've probably brushed your teeth nearly every morning and night since you can remember. In fact, brushing feels so natural that you feel uncomfortable when you skip a session. You may even feel self-conscious or embarrassed about your mouth until you've given it a thorough clean.
But before you pat yourself on the back for establishing such a good habit, take a few minutes to assess your technique. The following mistakes could negatively affect the health of your smile and leave you vulnerable to damage.
1. You Brush Vigorously
Does brushing every morning feel like a sparring match with your toothbrush? Do you scrub each surface of your tooth with an intense and focused energy? Does your toothbrush look like you used it to scrub concrete rather than teeth?
If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you need to ease up a little. Though your teeth's enamel remains one of the hardest substances in the human body, vigorous brushing can quickly wear away the outermost surface.
Instead, use repetitive friction rather than force to clean your teeth. Soft, gentle strokes effectively remove food particles without cutting grooves into your enamel. If you can, make a slow, smooth rolling motion with your brush as it contacts the gum line.
2. You Follow the Same Pattern Every Day
When you brush your teeth, you may feel most comfortable starting with the top right side of your mouth and ending with the bottom left side of your mouth. This systematic approach ensures you brush all your teeth without expending more thought and time than necessary.
But over time, your routine might become a little sloppy. You might feel impatient by the time each session ends, and you may feel tempted to cut a few corners while you brush. When you've finished brushing, your beginning top teeth may have received a thorough clean, but your last few bottom teeth may have only received a few hurried strokes.
To ensure all your teeth enjoy proper attention, feel free to switch things up a bit. If you tend to start at the top, alternate and start at the bottom. If you begin with the outsides of your teeth, try cleaning the inside surfaces first.
3. You Use an Old Toothbrush
You and your trusty toothbrush have seen a lot together. You've polished your pearly whites until they've gleamed. You've brushed away stubborn coffee and tea stains. And you've battled the aftermath of multiple buffets.
But most dentists agree that you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months. When your brush has frayed or missing bristles, it can't effectively clean your teeth or gums. Even the head of your electric toothbrush needs replacement every now and again.
Have you been sick? Change your toothbrush, regardless of its age. Although toothpaste can work wonders on your teeth, it doesn't effectively kill cold and flu germs lingering on your bristles.
4. You Can't Wait to Brush After Eating
You already know that you should brush your teeth after every meal. And after eating particularly spicy or fishy meals, you can't wait to brush the food away and enjoy clean, fresh-smelling breath.
However, what you eat and drink affects the pH levels of your mouth, and some acidic foods temporarily weaken your enamel. When you brush immediately after eating these foods, you push the acids deeper into the grooves of your teeth.
If you can, wait at least 30 to 60 minutes after eating before you brush your teeth. If you won't have time to brush later, rinse your mouth with water and chew on sugar-free gum.
How and when you brush your teeth can have a lasting impact on your overall oral health. When you take the time to correct your technique, you ensure that your teeth have a fighting chance against bacteria and decay.
Still not sure if you brush correctly? Talk to your dentist about your habits. He or she can give you additional advice for taking care of your teeth.