You don't have to brush your teeth... just the ones you want to keep. — Anonymous
How toothpaste works:
Contrary to popular belief, the chemicals in toothpaste aren't the primary method of cleaning your teeth. Instead, toothpaste contains abrasive ingredients that scrub away plaque from your teeth preventing stains and bacteria from forming on them . This is the main reason that you've probably been told to brush your teeth as the chemical compounds alone will not help.
But, that does not mean that the ingredients in toothpaste don't do anything. Many of the chemicals added work to create a foam that helps dislodge any plaque, debris, and bacteria from your teeth [1, 2].
Additionally, some kinds of toothpaste contain baking soda and/or hydrogen peroxide, both of which help give your teeth and mouth that iconic "clean" feeling [1, 2, 3]. If you're worried about these chemicals harming your teeth, scientific research has shown time and time again that they are safe to use. You read about the science behind baking soda in the "Research explained" section below.
With that said, the main active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your teeth from wear and tear is fluoride, a chemical compound that coats your teeth in a protective film after brushing. Like baking soda, you can analyze the evidence behind fluoride under the "Research explained" section.
As you might have guessed, brushing is one of the best ways to keep your mouth clean and the surest way to have white, shining teeth . But, it is usually the simplest tasks that are easiest to mess up [no research, just sounds right]. The bolded words below cover all the common ways people mess up tooth brushing, but there is more information and citations nested underneath each toggle:
Brushing the gum line is vital for ensuring that your teeth's root canals stay healthy and strong, so don't forget to lightly brush your gums !
It's been shown that brushing your teeth in short, circular strokes better removes plaque and debris from your teeth than brushing back and forth .
Brushing right after eating might have the effect of decreasing your teeth's integrity . To avoid this, just wait about 20 minutes after a meal to brush.
As per ADA guidelines, brushing at a 45 degree angle to the gums allows for a person to get hard to reach crevices and allows for the brush's bristles to penetrate the gaps between the teeth.
Not all toothbrushes are created equal. Before picking one, make sure that it has soft bristles and that it's the right size for your mouth. Soft bristles ensure that you don't overwork your sensitive teeth, gums, and tongue.
Try to keep your toothbrush in a closed off area or buy a cover for it. This will further help prevent bacteria from growing inside the bristles.
Taking at least 2 minutes to brush your teeth helps ensure that you cover every corner of your mouth and allows the fluoride to works its magic.
Pressing too hard on your teeth doesn't help remove plaque, but instead can have the effect of removing the outer, protective layers of your teeth.
As a reminder, there's really no need to take notes good students/readers. We've already condensed this entire guide into one cheat sheet. Relax your mind and let the information soak in.
The correct brushing technique:
Not that we've got the science out of the way let's put it all together in a simple seven step process:
- Wet your toothbrush with a small amount of water
- Put a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a single pea) on your brush
- Use gentle, short circular strokes to brush your gums and front teeth
- Flip the toothbrush and brush the inside of your teeth at a 45° degree angle
- Then brush your tongue in long strokes with either your toothbrush or a tongue scraper
- Store your toothbrush in an enclosed environment
- And finish by rinsing your mouth with cold water or mouthwash
Repeat this process twice a day for two minutes at a time, preferably in the morning and before going to bed. Most people—guide writers included—drastically underestimate how long they brush their teeth [1, 2].
To avoid that, make sure that you set a timer (digital or other) for two minutes and do not stop brushing until the full amount of time has gone by. After a few weeks of timing yourself, you'll become accustomed to brushing for two minutes at which point you can stop using a timer.
And finally, make sure to throw away your old toothbrush and replace it with a new one every 3 months. Your mouth, no matter how much you clean it, will eventually make your toothbrush smell like fart.
Frequently asked questions:
In a 2011 meta-analysis, the authors reported that "there is weak, very unreliable evidence from 10 studies that flossing plus toothbrushing may be associated with a small reduction in plague" . With that said, flossing may have a slight benefit in regards to tooth health, but more research is needed to concretely correlate flossing with improved dental hygiene.
Whether or not to floss is up to you, but it can be useful for individuals who frequently get food stuck in between their teeth.
A meta-analysis of five different studies that reviewed baking soda's ability and safety found that it was effective at removing plaque and did not reduce the integrity of teeth .
But, this is only the case for baking soda. A 2015 study found that lemon juice eats away at tooth enamel — the part of your teeth that protects your pearly whites from decay .
Because of this, stick with toothpastes that have baking soda over those that claim better effects with lemon juice.
Multiple studies have shown that hydrogen peroxide (HP) is effective at whitening teeth [1, 2, 3]. But, if applied at high concentrates or left on for too long, HP can cause damage to your teeth [1, 2].
If you're thinking about using HP, make sure that you read the instructions and/or do research on how to correctly apply it.
Commonly found in some foods like fish, vegetables, fruit juices, and tea; fluoride generates a chemical reaction that draws in minerals from the teeth like calcium to help strengthen their structure [1, 2].
Backed by more than 50 years of research, fluoride has been repeatedly shown to strengthen teeth, keep your mouth clean, and regulates saliva .
Since there is a huge array of dental options to choose from, here a few recommendations that follow along with the science outlined above. As yet another side note, all the products below are Amazon affiliate links that help support these guides.
This option is an extra soft toothbrush version with its bristles pointing in several directions for better reach.
Recommendation: This brush
This option contains all of the active ingredients mentioned previously that help prevents tooth decay and works to strengthen your teeth:
Recommendation: This paste
This option has 4 active ingredients that all contribute to fighting plaque and gingivitis.
Recommendation: This wash
This option has a natural lubricant that allows for it to more easily slip between the gaps in your teeth.
Recommendation: This floss
Not much to say here, besides that this option was checked for bot reviews to make sure that it was high quality.
Recommendation: This scraper
If you don't have an Amazon account, you are a true hermit. Although, it's quite strange that you found this guide. You must truly care about your teeth, smart hermit.