You do it twice a day (we hope), and it’s been a habit for years, but you might be brushing your teeth all wrong.
According to Dr. Timothy Chase, a dentist and oral health expert based in New York City, people don’t always go about their dental hygiene routines properly. Mistakes can be anything from brushing too hard to using the same toothbrush for years.
Staying on top of the health of your mouth doesn’t just impact your smile or breath — it can also prevent more serious diseases, like cancer. One U.K. study associated using mouthwash instead of brushing your teeth put people at an increased risk for cancer.
Brushing Too Much (Or Too Long)
According to Dr. Chase, a dentist and oral care specialist in New York, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you brush your teeth too often or too long by eroding the enamel on your teeth. His suggestion is two to three times a day at the most. Most dentists recommend brushing for two minutes.
Going At It Too Hard
Though your teeth are strong, your gums are sensitive. Brushing them too hard can cause damage, for example, by pushing back the soft tissue and exposing the root area. Dr. Chase recommends using gentle pressure, brushing with bristles angled toward the gum line and using small circular motions. He also suggests electric toothbrushes, which evens out the pressure.
Brushing Right After Eating
Don’t necessarily reach for the toothbrush after every meal, particularly after you’ve eaten something acidic. Acids can eat away at the enamel on your teeth, so let your mouth do what it does naturally and give saliva a chance to neutralize the acids for approximately 30 minutes after eating.
Sticking To Just Your Teeth
The bacteria that gives you bad breath (and potentially bad health) doesn’t just stay on your teeth — it’s sitting there on your tongue and cheeks as well. Make sure to take a swipe of those areas when you’re doing your brushing.
Using The Wrong Toothbrush
Even though they may be sold in stores, you don’t want to be using a medium or hard brush, says Dr. Chase. Look for toothbrushes that are labelled soft or extra soft, so as not to contribute to gum recession.
Keeping Your Toothbrush For Too Long
Dr. Chase suggests changing your toothbrush every three months, as that’s approximately the time it takes for bristles to lose their flexibility and wear out. But don’t worry — scientists say you don’t need to replace it after you’ve been sick, since it’s just your own germs on there.
Flossing at least once a day will help get at areas your toothbrush doesn’t reach (like, well, between your teeth). Dr. Chase says you should floss at least once a day, and more often if you tend to get food stuck in your teeth. Again, you’ll want to do this gently, so as not to damage the gums.
Not Drinking Water
Drinking water throughout the day can help get rid of food particles in the mouth. As well, says Dr. Chase, water keeps you hydrated, which helps in the production of saliva that keeps the mouth healthy and clean.
Not Getting Check-Ups
Sure, it might feel like you’re constantly going to see your dentist, but given that it could help diagnose anything from oral cancer to TMJ, it’s important to stay on top of your appointments. The Canadian Dental Association suggests an appointment every six months, but notes that depending on your oral care habits, your dentist may suggest coming in more or less.