We’ve all had those nights. You know, the ones where maybe we’re just a little too tired to take a couple of minutes and actually brush those pearly whites, opting instead for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. No harm done, right? Wrong.
Turns out even that one obligatory daily brush isn’t enough, and odds are you’re doing it all wrong. At least we were, until we checked in with the Canadian Dental Association. If you’re anything like us, here are eight things you’re probably messing up.
Only brushing once a day
Those colleagues who bring a toothbrush to work are actually onto something. While most of us brush our teeth in the morning, at night or a combination of both, it’s important to brush three times a day, ideally after meals. If you do only brush once a day, it’s key to do so before bed in order to remove all of that bacteria that promotes tooth decay overnight.
Brushing too soon after eating
Yes, it’s ideal to brush after meals, because that’s when bacteria begins to attack your teeth, but brushing too soon after eating is just as bad for you — if not worse — than not brushing at all. Especially if you’ve had something acidic. That’s because acid attacks your teeth’s enamel, and brushing too soon could push the acid even deeper into the enamel. Your best bet? Don’t get brushing until 20-30 minutes after your last bite. Kind of like swimming.
Using the wrong brush
Harder isn’t better. The best kind of toothbrush is a soft one that contains rounded bristles. It should also be able to reach all the way to your back teeth. In order to get the perfect shape and size for you, it’s always a good idea to ask your dentist. Meanwhile, the CDA recommends that you replace your brush every three months.
Scrubbing your teeth
It might seem as though a good old-fashioned scrubbing will get the pearly whites nice and…well, pearly white. But it won’t. In fact, it will do plenty of damage by causing your gums to recede or become swollen, and even lead to tooth sensitivity. The recommended position is this: hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Point the bristles to where the teeth and gums meet, and use gentle circles.
Rushing the brush
Sorry, but 30 seconds of vigorous brushing just doesn’t do it. Set a timer, and spend 30 seconds on each corner of your mouth for a two-minute affair. Three minutes is even better. If you feel like you’re starting to rush, be sure to change up your usual brushing pattern. That ensures you don’t miss the same spots all the time.
Just as you shouldn’t rush, you should also be sure to hit up every corner of your mouth. That means the inside and outside areas of your teeth, your gums and all chewing surfaces. It’s easy to just habitually stick a toothbrush inside your mouth without a second thought, but that’s when you begin to skip important areas that require a little more dexterity to reach.
Not brushing your tongue
Yup, this is considered one of those chewing surfaces that you also need to clean. Not only does brushing your tongue help to get rid of bacteria that can then spread to your teeth, but it will help to keep your breath fresh too. To do it right, brush the entire surface of your tongue on top and underneath. Then rinse out your mouth thoroughly.
Having a potty mouth
Most of us keep our toothbrushes in the bathroom — that’s where it makes the most sense to keep them. But if you really think about it, keeping your brush near the toilet, sink or tub pretty much invites gross particles to attach themselves to the bristles. To avoid that, be sure to use a holder rather than just laying it on the counter. Also be sure to rinse the brush after each use, and let it air dry naturally (a moist brush encourages bacteria growth).