Brushing teeth is something that as adults we often take for granted. Many of us don’t even remember how we learned. Brushing your teeth is almost reflexive, a (hopefully) regular part of your morning and evening routines. Turns out, though, that many of us may not be brushing our teeth properly.

Seriously, how are you supposed to brush your teeth?

Brushing with improper technique or over brushing teeth can mean that you aren’t getting all the benefits of your daily efforts. Learning how to brush your teeth properly is an important part of maintaining a healthy, beautiful smile.

Proper tooth brushing technique has three major components: time and frequency, materials, and technique.

Time and frequency

Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA).


Use a soft-bristled brush and an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste (with some exceptions for children explained below).


Practice proper brushing technique. (And proper tooth brushing technique goes far beyond simply rubbing your teeth vigorously with a toothbrush.)

For best results, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Using short strokes just the width of each tooth (much shorter than you might be used to), move the brush firmly back and forth several times over each individual tooth.

Reach the underside of each tooth by turning your brush vertically facing out and pulling the bristles down each tooth several times. Continue this action on all sides of the teeth – inside, outside, and chewing surfaces included.

Brush your tongue

Knowing how to brush your teeth properly also includes brushing your tongue. The tongue is a safe harbor for bacteria that can contribute to bad breath. Using a tongue scraper to remove this bacteria can help keep your mouth feel fresh and clean.


One more step to your tooth brushing routine: flossing. Flossing gets hard-to-reach food particles and cavity-causing bacteria out from between each tooth. This helps prevent cavity and is an important part of your daily routine.

Importance of brushing your teeth

The importance of brushing your teeth cannot be overestimated. Because of advancements in fluoride toothpaste (and fluoride in our water), the incidence of tooth decay is on the decline, but not for everybody.

Latino and African American populations and those living in poverty still have a high rate of tooth decay that can lead to tooth loss. Approximately 91% of people aged 20-64 have cavities, with 27% of that same group suffering from untreated tooth decay. This untreated tooth decay can lead to early tooth loss.

But that’s the bad news. The good news is that tooth brushing is an easy, affordable way for people of all ages, income levels, and ethnic backgrounds to help prevent tooth decay and loss. Learning proper tooth brushing technique is the best way to ensure a lifetime of strong and healthy teeth.

What are some other questions you may come up against? Our Phoenix area dentist, Dr. Janne Lynch, gives some answers to frequently asked questions about brushing your teeth.

How to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush?

Many people choose to use an electric toothbrush. If you do, let the toothbrush do the work for you.

Use a small dab of toothpaste and follow the same 45-degree angle as with a manual toothbrush, slowly moving your electric toothbrush across each tooth. Don’t press too hard or brush too vigorously; this can lead to over brushing teeth.

Can you brush your teeth too much?

Absolutely. Over brushing teeth may not seem like a big deal, but this is definitely an example of too much of a good thing. Brushing too frequently, for too long, or with a hard-bristled brush can lead to abrasions on the gums. Over brushing teeth can also contribute to receding gums, which can then lead to tooth decay underneath the gumline.

Following the above guidelines of t