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5 Bad Brushing Habits that Hurt Your Teeth

Most of us don't think about brushing our teeth. We put on the toothpaste, start brushing, and usually multi-task while we are doing it. Our teeth feel clean, but then we end up getting a cavity at the dentist. Chances are, it could be due to one of these 5 habits.

1. Not Brushing Long Enough - On average, most people brush for only 1 minute. Dentists recommend that we brush our teeth for 2-3 minutes. Next time you brush your teeth, bring an egg timer into the bathroom and brush until it goes off. You might be surprised how long 2-3 minutes feels.

2. Not Watching What You are Doing - Let's be honest, most of us probably don't look in the mirror when we brush our teeth. We might be reading our email, throwing the pillows off the bed, or just looking down at the sink. However, it is critical to look in the mirror when brushing your teeth to ensure that you are brushing correctly. It’s easy to miss the area right at the gum line, which is the most important part. That’s where plaque, tartar and bacteria can build up, which cause the gums to become inflamed and infected (aka gingivitis). Also keep a close eye on the back molars. If the brush head hits your cheek before you get to them you could miss them completely.

3. Change your Technique - We think we know how to brush your teeth, but many of us are doing it incorrectly. (Yes there is a correct way to do it!) When you brush side-to-side, these brittle rods can break, leading to cracks and weakening teeth. Hold the brush so the bristles are at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the teeth and brush in small circles. Focus on a few teeth at once, then move on to the next set, continuing around from one side to the other, top and bottom, front and back.

4. Using the Wrong Brush - Throw away that hard brush, because everyone should be using soft or ultrasoft brushes unless otherwise told by their dentist. If you have a water pick, keep it on the lowest setting, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s doing much. Anything higher can erode your gum line.You should replace a regular toothbrush every three months—sooner if the bristles look worn, frayed and bent. Over time, the bristles get damaged, like split ends in your hair, and bacteria nestle in those tiny tears. To minimize germs, run it under hot water for at least 30 seconds.

5. Failing to Floss - Though not directly related to brushing your teeth, flossing is just as important! Flossing gets between your teeth where toothbrushes can’t reach. Cavities form most often on the surfaces where two teeth touch. Bacteria can get stuck there, colonize, and eat away at our enamel. This leads to tooth decay, so start flossing everyone!

Also important is to rinse after to remove all the bacteria. It may not feel like your teeth feel as clean after, but trust us, they are! Next time you brush your teeth, avoid the above habits for stronger, healthier teeth!

Interested in learning more bad habits? See the article on Dr. Oz.