Are You Brushing Your Teeth Correctly?

A young woman trying to decide the best way to brush her teeth and what tools to use.

Do you actually think about how well you are brushing your teeth while you do it? Most of us are on autopilot. “brush your teeth morning and night to keep your smile shiny and bright.” San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD laughs when he tells us this rhyme. “My grandsons came to visit and chanted this song every day.” He says, but smiles aside, doing it right is the key to a healthy mouth. It can help you avoid problems like cavities and gum disease.

When we talk to our patients about brushing, most of them just tell us that they do it but that they have never really been taught or thought about the right way to do it. Sharpen your skills with these easy-to-follow tips:


-Just any old toothbrush may not be the one for you. Think about the size of your mouth, says Richard H. Price, DMD, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. “If you are straining to open wide enough to let the brush in, the brush is probably too big,” he says.

-The right toothbrush for you should feel good to hold (fancy shaped handles or small or large ones aren’t conducive to good brushing for most people). Some toothbrush heads are huge. If you have a smaller mouth get a brush that is in proportion to your mouth.

-A soft bristled toothbrush is best. Hard bristled brushes can hurt gum tissue. In the hands of overzealous brushers, it can even lead to gum recession; which is no fun.

“Electric or manual? Roundhead or sonic these are an individual preference,” says Dr. Loev “We have found however that patients that use electric toothbrushes with timers often do a better job with their home care.”

-Electric toothbrushes can make it easier to do a better job, especially if you have arthritis or other trouble with your hands, arms, or shoulders.


-How long do you brush your teeth for? Are you brushing enough? At least twice a day is recommended, but Dr. Loev says after each meal is even better, up to 3 times per day.

-You should brush for at least 2 minutes. Are you? Most people don’t brush long enough. Some electric toothbrushes have built-in timers that prompt you to move around your mouth. The mouth is divided into 4 quadrants. The Sonicare toothbrush, for example, buzzes and beeps when it’s time to move to the next area. Children often get egg timers from their pediatric dentists to help them gauge time but for adults try setting a timer on your watch or phone or playing a song that you like that lasts about 2 minutes.


-As we mentioned before, harder is not better. You can do damage not only to your gum tissue but also to your teeth protective coating, the enamel.

-If you use an electric brush this tip is especially important. It is really easy to push too hard. Let the bristles do the work for you. The built-in motion will do the cleaning your job is just to guide the


-Have you been doing it the right way? Has anybody taught you as an adult the right way? Wide, side-to-side brush strokes can scrape your gum line, Dr. Heinic, DMD, an Oral medicine and Dental Hygiene specialist at Dr. Loev’s office says. “Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums, and make an up-and-down motion, using short strokes.”

-It is easy to forget or speed over the hard to reach back parts of your mouth. Plaque can build up in these areas and cause gum issues and decay so make sure that you are diligent.


-Many patients who are right handed start brushing the upper left part of their mouth first. Do you always begin in the same place? Dentists say most of us do.

“Make a point of changing your starting point,” Dr. Loev says. Most people brush more carefully at the beginning of the process. By starting at different points in our mouth we can ensure that our entire mouth gets the love that it deserves.

-Don’t forget the quads. You have four parts of your mouth: upper-right, upper-left, lower-right, lower-left don’t favor or leave one out.


-Toothpaste, an ongoing debate. The kind of toothpaste that people use can make a difference. Many of the tooth whitening and tartar control toothpaste can cause sensitivity. Most tooth whitening toothpaste actually uses silica (glass particles) to remove stains. No wonder people have sensitivity. If you have tooth sensitivity, check your brush type (soft-bristles) and check your paste. Try using a type that is specifically meant for sensitive teeth. You can even just try switching to a regular fluoride toothpaste without all the fancy stuff and see if that helps. If you still have sensitivity tell your dentist. Together you can come up with a solution. You still want white teeth, of course. Ask your dentist about tooth whitening products. There are many types to fit every objective and price point.


-You can probably guess that drinks such as energy drinks, sodas, and candies can soften enamel; but did you know that even everyday things like juice, and coffee — have acid that can soften tooth enamel? To lessen the negative impact of these acidic foods rinse with water during and after enjoying and wait 30 minutes to an hour after consuming before brushing.


-Most of us store our toothbrushes in the bathroom. Do you keep it in your medicine cabinet or on the counter? Germs from the toilet and sink can contaminate your toothbrush. Don’t use a fancy toothbrush cover unless it lets air in. Toothbrushes should be allowed to air dry to prevent bacterial growth. We know that you love your partner but don’t let your brushes touch. Ideally, keep them in separate holders.

To keep yours tidy, stand it up in a holder. If you leave it on the counter, you could expose it to germs from your toilet or sink. And don’t let two brushes touch if they’re stored together.

  1. LET IT GO

-How often do you change your toothbrush? A toothbrush should be changed every 3-4 months or after an illness. Many new toothbrushes have built-in toothbrush replacement guides. They are usually a row or two of colored bristles that lose their color with time. When the color is gone the brush should be too. If you brush doesn’t have a built-in guide then use your judgment. Once bristles start to sag and break apart or lose their normal flexibility it is time for a change. Change or season change of brush is also a helpful reminder for some people.

Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been caring for his patients for decades from his dental office that overlooks San Francisco’s Union Square. He and his team take pride in providing the best quality and most gentle dental care available. Over the years they have transformed 100’s of “non-dentist” people into people who actually enjoy their visits and take pride in their smiles. A dental relationship should be a positive one, make sure that you feel comfortable and cared for by your dentist if the experience is “meh…” then ask friends, family, and colleagues about their dentist. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are in need or want of a new dentist. Dr. Loev and his team would love the opportunity to meet you and earn your trust and loyalty call them at 415-392-2072 or schedule an appointment online today

Team Loev Team Loev is comprised of highly dedicated professionals who along with San Francisco Cosmetic, Restorative and Implant Dentist Dr. Edward Loev are committed to educating and hopefully entertaining in-person and virtual patients and making their lives a bit healthier and brighter

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