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How Often Should You Brush Your Teeth

Updated on July 13, 2011

The main purpose for brushing teeth is to remove plaque build up from the teeth. Plaque is a film of bacteria that adheres to the teeth, particularly along the gum line. The only way to remove plaque is through a mechanical action, such as that of a toothbrush scrubbing against the surface of the tooth. If left undisturbed, plaque mineralises to form tartar. Unlike plaque, tartar can only be removed by a dentist with the use of specific dental instruments.

Tartar and plaque in close proximity to the gums irritates the gums and leads to the development of gum disease. The need to remove plaque before tartar formation occurs is primarily to protect the gums from gum disease.

How often should you brush your teeth?

Studies show that it takes three days for an undisturbed growth of plaque to mineralise to form tartar. Assuming that an individual’s brushing technique is satisfactory the minimum brushing requirement would be to brush once every two days to prevent tartar from forming. Since most individuals would find it difficult to remember to brush once every two days, the recommendation is to brush at least once a day.

Is it sufficient to brush only once a day?

Yes, given that you brush your teeth well and that you do not belong to the high risk category of individuals that have a greater predisposition for the development of dental disease.

Although the specific removal of plaque is mainly to protect the gums from the development of gum disease, it is important to remember that dental plaque also contains two groups of bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay – Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacilli.  The presence of these bacteria in close proximity to the teeth will increase the risk of developing tooth decay.

For individuals categorised as high risk for the development of tooth decay, it is important to minimise all risk factors.  Since the presence of plaque increases the risk of developing tooth decay, more frequent tooth brushing is recommended. 


Brushing once a day is generally sufficient for individuals with low risk of developing dental disease.  For individuals with a higher risk of developing dental disease, it is recommended that they brush at least twice a day.  Since most individuals will not be aware of whether they fall into the low risk or high risk category, the general recommendation is to brush at least twice a day.


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