Toothbrushing is such an ingrained habit, few people think twice about it. But as with any habit, you can get sloppy, and that can lead to cavities and gum disease.

Toothbrushing Mistakes

1: Not Using the Right Toothbrush – Consider the size of your mouth when picking a toothbrush. If you are straining to open wide enough to let the brush in, the brush is probably too big. Also the handle has to be comfortable.  It should feel as comfortable as holding a fork when you eat. The more comfortable it is in your mouth and your hand, then the more likely you will use it and use it properly.

2: Not Picking the Right Bristles – Some toothbrushes have angled bristles, others straight. So is one type better? Dentists say no. ‘It’s more related to technique than the way the bristles come out.

What is important when buying a toothbrush? Bristles that are too stiff can aggravate the gums. The Dentists recommend a soft-bristled brush. Bristles should be sturdy enough to remove plaque but not hard enough to damage

[the teeth] when used properly.

3: Not Brushing Often Enough or Long Enough – Softly brushing your teeth at least twice a day is recommended. Three times a day is best though. With too much time between brushings, bacterial plaque will build up, boosting the risk of gum inflammation and other problems. Brushing should last at least two minutes.  Three minutes is even better, according to dentists. Most people fall short of both time lines. It’s an arbitrary number, but it’s just so people take the time to clean all the surfaces.

4: Brushing Too Often or Too Hard – While brushing your teeth three times a day is ideal, more may not be. More than four toothbrushings a day would begin to seem compulsive. Excessive brushing could expose the root of the tooth to irritation, and that could in turn irritate the gums. Brushing vigorously can also erode tooth enamel. The trick is to brush very gently for two to three minutes.

5: Not Brushing Correctly – Long horizontal strokes along the gumline can lead to abrasions. Aim your bristles at the gum line at a 45-degree angle and do short strokes or vibrations. Softly brush up and down your teeth, not across your teeth. The strokes should be vertical or circular, not horizontal. Be sure to brush outer and inner tooth surfaces, the chewing surfaces, and your tongue.

6: Starting in the Same Place Each Time – Many people start brushing the same part of their mouth over and over, dentists find. Start in a different place so that you don’t get lazy in the same area of your mouth. This is because it’s possible that by the time you get to the last quadrant of your mouth, you’re bored with brushing.

7: Skipping Inner Tooth Surfaces – Most people forget to brush the inner surfaces of teeth — the surface that your tongue presses against. The plaque you can’t see is just as important to remove as the plaque you can see. The most commonly skipped area, dentists say, is the inner surface of the lower front teeth.

8: Not Following Up With a Rinse – Bacteria can grow on an un-rinsed toothbrush. Then, the next time you brush your teeth, you may actually put old bacteria back in your mouth. Rinsing the toothbrush after you brush will help remove any leftover toothpaste, too.

9: Not Letting the Toothbrush Dry – If you have a toothbrush that’s perpetually moist, it will cultivate more bacteria. If the bristles stay soggy, you can misshape them as you use the brush. Or it might be a breeding ground for bacteria. It’s a good idea to shake out the moisture, then recap it with a cap that allows air in, he says.

10: Not Changing the Toothbrush Often Enough – Dentists recommend getting a new brush every three or four months, or even sooner if the bristles look frayed. But rather than go by a strict timeline, a visual inspection of the bristles is better. Once the bristles lose their normal flexibility and start to break apart, change your toothbrush.