Your top questions on toothbrush care answered

For most of us, brushing our teeth — like going to the dentist regularly — is just something that we do without really thinking about it. We were taught how to brush our teeth as kids and never looked back.

But are you doing it the right way? You might be surprised. We rounded up some of the most common questions about brushing that you probably don’t know the answer to but should!

We rounded up some of the most common questions about brushing that you probably don’t know the answer to but should!

How Often Should You Replace Your Toothbrush?

Many dentists give you a toothbrush when you get a dental cleaning and checkup every six months, but you should be replacing it much more frequently than that.

According to the American Dental Association, you should invest in a new toothbrush every three to four months — or even sooner. Frayed bristles don’t clean your teeth as well, so even if you brush you’re probably not getting everything. Toss it and pick up a brand new toothbrush from the drugstore, ideally one with the seal from the ADA (that means it’s guaranteed to be top quality).

Which is Better: Manual Brushing or Electric/Sonic Brushing?

Let’s face it: Electric and sonic toothbrushes seem more fun than regular toothbrushes because they do some of the work for you — and some of them even have smartphone apps that go with them. But are they better than manual toothbrushes?

Manual and electric toothbrushes are pretty much equal in effectiveness if you brush twice a day for two minutes each time. However, a recent analysis of 56 dental studies found that electric toothbrushes reduced dental plaque by 21 percent over three months when compared with manual toothbrushes — and they reduced gingivitis (inflammation) by 11 percent. Electric toothbrushes also might work better for people with mobility problems, like arthritis.

But don’t fret if you can’t (or don’t want to) use an electric toothbrush. Just keep up good brushing habits and you’ll keep your chompers healthy.

Does the Shape of a Toothbrush Make a Difference?

It does. Your toothbrush needs to be able to brush all the nooks and crannies in your teeth, so a toothbrush that is more narrow at the top (like this one) is the best choice. Make sure you’re using a toothpaste formulated with fluoride with it, too!

Should You Buy a Hard-Bristled or a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush?

Always go for a soft-bristled toothbrush. Excessive brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush can actually cause damage to your tooth enamel and, over time, lead to sensitivity and tooth erosion. The good news is that most toothbrushes sold in stores now are soft-bristled, so you won’t have to search too much to find one.

Up and Down or Side to Side: Which is Best For Your Teeth?

Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t clean your teeth by furiously moving your toothbrush across your teeth. In general, the American Dental Association recommends that you brush by gently placing your toothbrush against your gum line at about a 45-degree angle to get the plaque that likes to hide up there. Then, use gentle back-and-forth strokes over one tooth at a time to clean them.

As for front teeth? Go vertical! Use up-and-down strokes to get the both the front and back of the teeth that are visible when you smile.

Do You Need to Clean or Disinfect Your Toothbrush?

It’s not pleasant to think about, but you do transfer bacteria from your teeth to your toothbrush every time you clean your teeth. Though you shouldn’t worry too much about getting sick from a toothbrush, you should follow a few best practices to keep it as clean and germ-free as possible.

  • Rinse your brush thoroughly with clean water after every brush to remove any lingering food debris and toothpaste.
  • Allow your toothbrush to air dry. Covering your toothbrush creates the type of dark, moist environment that bacteria thrives on.
  • Don’t share your toothbrush with anyone else.
  • Put your toothbrush bristles in a small glass of antibacterial mouthwash if you want extra cleaning. Toothbrush sanitizers sold in stores aren’t necessary.

Does It Matter When You Brush?

You likely know that you should brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time — and floss your teeth at least once a day. It’s best to brush your teeth first thing in the morning when you wake up to get rid of any bacteria and plaque that’s built up while you were sleeping. Then, brush again right before you go to bed.

Here’s the caveat, though: Despite what your friends might tell you, you shouldn’t brush right after a meal. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should wait 30 minutes after a meal to brush your teeth, especially if you’ve eaten something acidic (like tomatoes or citrus fruits). The reason: The acids, combined with the brushing, can damage tooth enamel, leading to erosion and, eventually, decay.

Instead, drink a glass of plain water after a meal to wash away bacteria and excess particles, then brush a half hour later. Your teeth will thank you!

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips