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How to brush your teeth correctly

Updated on April 9, 2013

Can brushing your teeth actually do harm?

Brushing your teeth the wrong way can do more damage than you think. It's interesting to see how many people don't really know how they're supposed to brush their teeth the proper way. I remember as a child visiting the dentist and him spending the time to explain the proper way to brush using a model and a toothbrush.

These days, it seems dentists are more concerned with revenue generating treatments like veneers and crowns and spend less time explaining and sharing with patients educational information that affect their long term oral health.


I read a lot of articles, where people wrote so many different ideas on the way you're supposed to brush, no wonder we're all comfused. I was comfused for years until I attended some of the meetings at the California Dental Association and asked that same question to many dentists, they all provided me with the proper instructions.

There's only one correct way to brush your teeth, there are many reputable sites that share visual aids and instructions such as the American Dental Association. But here's a quick summary of what you need to know:

  • Make sure you use a soft bristle toothbrush
  • Replace your toothbrush in a timely manner (about every 3 months)
  • Use the correct toothpaste for your situation that has fluoride, consult with your dentist, there are many choices but you can choose from, Sensodyne if you have sensitive teeth, if you need enamel protection, they have that also.
  • Only use a pea size amount and apply it to your tooth brush
  • Place your tooth brush at a 45 degree angle against the gums

See, this is where everybody kind of gets it wrong and takes it in a million directions:

  1. Back and fourth - this causes "tooth brush abrasion" by tearing up your gums
  2. Up and down - this is a waste of time because all your doing and shoving the plaque back underneath your gumline, you're not really cleaning by pulling the plaque away.
  3. Circular motion - Even worse, you're taking all that plaque and shoving back in between your teeth.

The proper method recommended by dentists - While holding the brush at a 45 degree angle against the gums, brush the plaque away from the gums downward, not all the way down to shove it between your lower teeth. Just brush away from your upper teeth. This is actually quite uncomfortable for most, it takes some wrist action, but always keep in mind, you're brushing plaque away from the gumline, and return the brush back to its position at a 45 degree angle and do the same. For the bottom arch, the same thing, hold the brush at a 45 degree angle and brush the plaque away from the gumline, up.

Brush the outer surfaces and the inner surfaces of the teeth the same, the brush should always land at a 45 degree angle against the gumline and brush away from the gumline. The chewing surfaces can be brushed back and fourth. The inside of the teeth on the lower front arch should be brushed using the "Toe" of the brush, again start at the gum line and away, this is generally when most people spray the mirror they're facing with toothpaste!.

Don't use too much pressure, this is especially important if you're using an electrical tooth brush. Many electrical toothbrushes come with specific instructions, read those instructions clearly and always remember, you want to pull plaque away from the gumline and not shove it somewhere else, land on the gums and brush away.

Don't forget that tongue, brushing your tongue will remove the odor causing bacteria and give you the fresh breath feeling.

Flossing and mouthwash should also be a part of your daily routine, I wanted to focus more about the brushing in this article, read my other articles and check back regularly for new information and ideas that affect your everyday oral health and stuff.  I will work on getting a dentist to demonstrate it on video, so make sure and check back.

Thank you for reading and remember to share a smile!


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    • Pascale1973 profile image

      Pascale Skaf Saliba 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thank you...nice quote..

    • profile image

      BrushForLife 5 years ago

      Hmm...You are correct that the Back and fourth motion causes "tooth brush abrasion"

      Up and down - this is a waste of time (but not for the reason you state)

      Circular motion - Even worse, you're taking all that plaque and shoving back in between your teeth. (This is the "Bass" technique you refer to, and not really true either)

      While all these techniques are valid and have names, the only technique that works *very* effectively is the S.M.I.L.E. technique developed by moi over the past 20 years.


    • profile image

      HARISH KUMAR SHUKLA 5 years ago

      this is a very useful information for me

    • Pascale1973 profile image

      Pascale Skaf Saliba 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm glad you noticed! Makes a big difference

    • hazelbrown profile image

      hazelbrown 6 years ago from Central PA

      I never knew you were just supposed to brush DOWN. I've been brushing back and forth until recently when I happened to read something about the right way to brush - similar to what you said. Whoops!