Brushing & Flossing



If you are like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to how you brush your teeth, beyond squirting on some toothpaste and brushing back and forth. But your brushing technique matters. How often you brush, how long you brush for - your brushing technique and the toothbrush you choose can all influence the effectiveness of your brushing. Make every brush stroke count.

It's all in the technique
Following a routine is a great way to remain consistent when brushing to ensure all surfaces are cleaned. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1.Consider starting at the back of your mouth with the toothbrush bristles placed at the gum line where the teeth meet the gums.
2. Hold the brush on a 45° angle, brushing gently in a back-forth motion. If you apply too much pressure when brushing, this can cause your gums to recede, as well as damaging the white tooth enamel.
3. You should take care to gently brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, making sure you reach the inside surfaces of the front teeth, which are often missed.
4. Once you’ve finished brushing, spit out the excess toothpaste but do not rinse out your mouth with water. By not rinsing, this leaves a thin layer of toothpaste on the surface of your teeth helping to protect them for longer. 
Look to do this twice per day, in the morning and again at night before bed. It’s a simple routine that’s easy to perform and should only take two minutes.

And don’t forget your tongue. While it may seem strange at first to brush your tongue, a lot of bacteria live on its surface. Brushing the tongue can reduce the bacteria present, which can help with bad breath, officially known as halitosis or oral malodour. You should use the toothbrush bristles to gently scrape in a forward motion along the surface of the tongue.

Tools of the trade
There is a large range of toothbrushes available on supermarket or chemist shelves to suit your oral health needs. But which one is right for you?  

In general, look to use a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. If you like your dental products to be recyclable, bamboo toothbrush handles can be recycled by separating them from head of the brush

Should you have trouble using a manual toothbrush, you might consider using an electric toothbrush or a three-sided toothbrush. Some electric toothbrushes come with an in-built two-minute timer, which makes sticking to the recommended brushing time of two minutes much easier.

If you are not sure which type of brush will work for you or your family, your dentist can help you.

Softly, softly
Tempting as it is to think that pressing harder on your teeth equals a better clean, the fact is that too much pressure can damage your gums and tooth enamel. If your toothbrush bristles become worn where they are pushed out and sit outside the base of the toothbrush in less than three months, you may be pressing too hard whilst brushing. 

Your dentist can provide you with tips on how to avoid this. Some electric toothbrushes come with a built-in pressure sensor that will warn you when you brush with too much pressure. 

Consider replacing your toothbrush every three months, when the bristles are worn or splayed or after you’ve been unwell.


To care for the health of both your teeth and gums, it is recommended that as well as brushing, you should clean between your teeth at least once a day. This can be done with floss or interdental brushes.

No matter how well you brush your teeth, the bristles will not reach the surfaces between the teeth to remove bacteria, plaque or leftover food. That is where flossing and interdental brushes come in.

When to start flossing? It is recommended that once a child has two or more teeth touching side-by-side, parents should start flossing their children’s teeth. This is often around the age of 2.
Listen to the ADA's Watch Your Mouth Podcast episode featuring Dr Kareen Mekertichian who provides advice on  brushing and flossing for infants and young children

Visiting the dentist

Prevention is better than cure. It’s best to visit your dentist regularly to protect your teeth and stay on top of issues as they arise rather than treat the diseases once they have advanced. So aim to see your dentist at least every 12 months.

Alternatively, your dentist will advise you how often you should return. Their recommendation is based on the health of your mouth and factors that may increase your risk of developing dental diseases, such as certain medical conditions and how well you care for your teeth at home.

If you do not have a regular dentist, find one in your local area by using the ADA’s Find A Dentist website.