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5 Brushing Habits You May Be Doing Wrong

You can reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease if you follow the American Dental Association’s (ADA) recommendation to brush your teeth twice every day. However, if you use the wrong toothbrush, brush too forcefully, or apply other bad habits, you may offset the benefits of regular brushing. Rather than improving the condition of your teeth and gums, improper brushing can lead to serious and potentially permanent damage.   


A professional dental exam can help determine whether you’re earning the benefits of regular brushing. The dentists at Rifkin Dental in Yorktown Heights and Carmel, New York provide professional dental cleanings that include a thorough examination of your teeth and gums. Attending twice-yearly exams allows the dentists to identify problems that may occur from improper brushing and correct them before they cause serious damage.


Helping you establish and maintain proper brushing habits is part of the preventive dentistry program at Rifkin Dental. Avoid these five common brushing habits to get the most from your brushing routine. 

#1 Brushing right after a meal

You may have heard it’s best to brush after every meal, but doing it too soon after eating can damage your teeth. After eating, the acid from food remains on your teeth. It attacks your enamel, the protective outer coating of your teeth, and the layer beneath it, called dentin. Brushing while this acid remains on your teeth can force the acid into your teeth, potentially damaging your plaque and dentin.


Instead of brushing right after a meal, you’ll get better results if you rinse your mouth with water. This helps remove the acid without pushing it into your teeth. If you prefer to brush later, the ADA says that waiting about 60 minutes can help reduce the effects of any lingering acid.  

#2 Brushing with the wrong toothbrush

Don’t overlook the importance of using the right toothbrush. To get the best results, make sure that the toothbrush head fits comfortably in your mouth. You should be able to reach all of your teeth easily and move the brush without feeling that the head takes up too much room. 


All types and styles of toothbrushes wear out and lose their effectiveness over time. Signs of wear typically include matted or frayed bristles. You can ensure your toothbrush delivers optimal cleaning power by replacing your manual toothbrush or the head of your electric toothbrush every three to four months unless you notice signs of wear earlier.

#3 Using the wrong brushing technique

It’s important to use the right brushing technique to benefit from twice-daily brushing. The ADA advises placing your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums when you start. 


Avoid using sweeping strokes across the width of your mouth or brushing back and forth to get the job done faster. Instead, use gentle pressure and push the brush in a back-and-forth motion no wider than the width of one tooth. To clean the inside surfaces, tilt your toothbrush vertically against your teeth, then brush up and down using gentle strokes.


Cover all the surfaces of every tooth every time you brush. Keep track of where you’re brushing so you don’t overbrush one section and miss another. Your brushing session should cover the chewing surfaces, outer surfaces, and inner surfaces of all teeth. 

#4 Applying too much pressure when you brush

While brushing aggressively will clean your teeth, it can cause a condition called “toothbrush abrasion.” This results when you apply too much force or pressure as you brush, allowing toothbrush bristles to wear down your enamel. When the enamel becomes damaged, you can experience a higher level of sensitivity to cold food and drinks. 


Look for signs of aggressive brushing before it damages your teeth. You’re probably applying too much pressure if your toothbrush bristles look flattened. Train yourself to think about “massaging” your teeth versus “brushing” to emphasize a softer touch.


You’re more likely to develop toothbrush abrasion if you use medium or hard toothbrush bristles. These firmer bristles can strip your tooth enamel even if you’re using normal pressure. You can reduce the chances of developing dental problems by using soft bristles and avoiding aggressive brushing.

#5 Brushing too quickly

While using the right toothbrush and technique gives you a solid start, you’ll have to brush long enough to make an impact. The ADA recommends brushing for two minutes twice daily to allow enough time to remove cavity-causing plaque. 


It’s relatively easy to make sure you’re brushing for the recommended period of time. Many electric toothbrushes alert you when you’ve brushed for two minutes. When using a manual toothbrush, set your cellphone timer to let you know when you’re done.

Find out more about brushing properly and keeping your teeth healthy by arranging a dental checkup. Schedule an appointment online or call one of our offices today.

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