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10 Things You May Not Know About Brushing

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10 Things You May Not Know About Brushing

August 30, 2011

Written for Dental1 by Michelle Alford

It’s common knowledge that regular brushing is essential to dental health, but here are ten brushing facts that you may not know.

  1. It’s possible to brush too much. While brushing two or three times a day is ideal, brushing more than that could damage your teeth and gums. Brushing too often can cause your gums to recede and expose the roots of your teeth, leaving them open to infection. It can also wear down your tooth enamel and make your teeth more prone to cavities.  

  2. You should always let your toothbrush dry completely. If you immediately put a cover on your toothbrush or place it in a plastic bag, it’s likely that your toothbrush bristles will remain damp in between brushing. This can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Shake excess moisture off your toothbrush and allow it to air dry.  

  3. Whitening toothpaste is abrasive and shouldn’t be used every time you brush. There’s nothing wrong with using whitening toothpaste on occasion to increase the shine of your smile, but if used too often it can damage your tooth enamel and increase your gum sensitivity.  

  4. Up to 90% of bad breath is caused by bacteria on the tongue. Your tongue is home to decaying food particles, fungi, and up to 500 types of bacteria. In addition to causing bad breath, an unbrushed tongue can negatively affect the health of the teeth surrounding it. You don’t need to brush your tongue as often as you brush your teeth, but you should include it in your dental hygiene routine.  

  5. It’s okay to brush without toothpaste. The only ingredient of toothpaste that actually helps to prevent cavities is fluoride, and there’s actually some debate among dentists and scientists about how much that helps as well. Most of the benefits of brushing come from simply removing the plaque from your teeth and spitting it out, all of which can be done with a toothbrush and water.  

  6. You should replace your toothbrush every few months. Once your toothbrush bristles start to look frayed or flare out, they aren’t as effective for brushing and your toothbrush should be replaced.  

  7. You should regularly change where in your mouth you start brushing. Many people consider brushing their teeth to be a boring task and by the end they become a little lazy. If you start in the same location every time you brush, that area is likely to be well taken care of, but the areas you tend to brush last will be less well maintained. By varying where you start brushing, all areas of your mouth will get equal care.  

  8. You should not swallow anything while brushing. Most toothpastes contain fluoride, which is a toxic substance. While probably not dangerous in trace amounts, it should not be ingested. In addition, plaque contains bacteria that could make you sick if swallowed. Make sure to thoroughly rinse and spit as you brush.  

  9. For best results, you should brush for 2 to 3 minutes. Odds are, this is longer than you currently spend brushing. The average American only brushes for 17 seconds. To encourage you to brush longer, try listening to a favorite song and brushing from the first note to the last chord.  

  10. Which toothbrush you buy matters. Every toothbrush may look the same, but there are subtle differences that can affect your dental health. The American Dental Association recommends soft-bristled brushes, which are gentler on your teeth and gums. The toothbrush should also easily fit in your mouth. If your toothbrush is too big and uncomfortable to use, you’re less likely to use it properly.   

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Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt

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