Are you worried that you’re not brushing your teeth properly?
You can have the ‘best’ toothbrush and toothpaste products, but how effective they are at cleaning your teeth and mouth limited by you or I as the user. It is us that guides the brush around our teeth and mouths.
In the guide below, we cover all you need to know, in detail. BUT if you are in a hurry, or if you want to keep a quick guide for future reference, click one of the links below to view our How To Brush Your Teeth PDF Quick Guides .*
*The basics required. We advise reading more to understand the technique and how best to achieve clean teeth.
- How to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush (click here to view PDF Quick Guide)
- How to brush your teeth with a manual toothbrush (click here to view PDF Quick Guide)
11 Tips for better brushing
- The average person only brushes 45 to 70 seconds a day. The recommended amount of time is at least 2 minutes or 120 seconds, twice a day.
- Brushing with the right technique ensures you remove plaque effectively.
- Electric toothbrushes can remove up to 100% more plaque from the gum line than a regular manual toothbrush.
- Brushing gently ensures that you do not damage your gums. Brushing harder and faster is not the answer to improve your oral health.
- Make sure you brush all areas of the mouth for better oral health. This includes all sides of the teeth and the tongue as well.
- Toothbrushes with soft bristles remove plaque effectively and are gentle to the gums.
- Vigorous brushing can do more harm than good, use gentle pressure when brushing.
- Pay attention to all teeth when brushing, do not focus purely on the more visible teeth at the front of the mouth.
- Electric toothbrushes can offer different cleaning modes suited to different oral hygiene routines, adjusting brush head motion and speed to provide a better and more suitable clean.
- Use a fluoride based toothpaste to helps ensure the teeth remain healthy and the enamel is strong.
- Do not rinse your mouth out after brushing. Spit out excess toothpaste but avoid rinsing as this keeps your mouth feeling cleaner and fresher for longer.
Reasons why you may not clean your teeth
- You forget
- We all forget things sometimes, but try to make teeth cleaning part of your routine to avoid forgetting.
- Do you forget to go to work? Forget to meet your friend or forget to watch that TV programme? If the answer is no to these, why do you forget your teeth?
- Set reminders or a trigger for you to clean your teeth.
- At worst make it the first and last thing you do in a day.
- You have not got time
- You need just 4 minutes a day for a basic oral hygiene routine. That is less than 0.5% of a day.
- You probably find time for work, to see friends, to watch TV, to browse social media. Can you not forego 4 minutes on any of your daily activities?
- You cannot be bothered
- We all have days like this, but think of the consequences.
- If you injured yourself, you would do something to stop the pain and heal the wound. Not cleaning your teeth is one step in creating a problem that will later need attention.
- They do not need cleaning or certainly not more than once a day.
- Many scientific tests have proven the need for this and 2 minutes twice a day is the recommended approach globally.
- You get bored when cleaning your teeth
- Induce motivation when cleaning your teeth, listen to music, reward yourself use visual timers to help.
- It hurts
- This is likely due to a lack of regular cleaning and not doing so correctly. Regular cleaning with the correct approach, can assist in removing the problem that causes pain.
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste is expensive
- Premium products can be expensive but there are many very cost effective solutions if you look around.
- A basic toothbrush and toothpaste can be purchased for well below a £1/$1 working out at less than 1p or 1 cent per day.
Ultimately failing to clean your teeth whatever the reason will likely leave you with weak teeth and gums which will in time cause you pain, with inflamed and bleeding gums. You may be unable to eat without pain and it will contribute to other illnesses and mean expensive dentist bills for filling, but most likely removing your teeth and replacing them with false sets.
How to clean your teeth correctly
If you’re an infrequent brusher (as described above), or if you think you’re technique isn’t great, hopefully we can now convince you of the right way to brush, and to do it regularly.
It is your mouth, your health and your money, so you are in control, but for what is such a simple task it can make such a big difference to your life.
So here comes the comprehensive, detailed, but hopefully informative guide as to why and how you should clean your teeth correctly.
What you need
- Toothbrush (manual or electric)
How often should you brush your teeth, and for how long?
Minimum of 2 (120 seconds) minutes twice a day. This excludes the time required for flossing.
Sparing 10 minutes a day will allow you to have a superb oral hygiene routine.
For optimum oral health, brush after every meal to remove food particles and reduce the chances of bad breath.
For a more detailed write up, see our post: How long & how often should you brush your teeth?
The right tools
The more tools you have at your disposal and the more money you can afford to spend the better your oral hygiene routine can be. However, that does not mean that those that spend most will get the best results.
Spending just a couple of £ or $ every 3 months is enough with the right technique and routine.
More money spent on more advanced products can aid the process and improve results, but the effect for the increased spend is considerably more limited.
Electric toothbrushes with replaceable batteries can start from as little as £5.
Brushes with a fixed internal battery can start from around £15, one such example being the Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush Powered by Braun.
Spend £25 and you can get a more premium brush like the Oral-B Pro 650, or for just another £5 (£30 total) the Pro 2 2000 offers a pressure sensor. For a more complete comparison of choices, see our best electric toothbrush post.
In the most simplistic form a manual toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste is enough (more on toothpastes below).
Electric toothbrushes can be advantageous for a number of reasons. It reduces the effort required, making the process of cleaning teeth easier. The electric motor can be easier to use for those with arthritis, or trouble with arms, hands and shoulder movement issues. Of course an electric toothbrush is generally too more efficient at removing harmful plaque.
Floss and mouthwash are too advised as part of a routine to assist in ensuring the mouth and teeth are as clean as they can be and limit potential problems.
With a manual or electric brush as there is for floss and mouthwash, there are many different options from different manufacturers designed to suit different needs. It is best to consult a dentist or medical professional on finding the correct one for you.
There are a wide variety of toothpastes that can assist in the teeth cleaning process.
From whitening to sensitivity pastes to those that come as gels what you are really looking for is those that have Fluoride in them.
A naturally occurring mineral it has been responsible for reducing tooth decay over the last 50 years.
It makes the enamel on your teeth stronger and can even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
Only a ‘pea’ sized amount is required at any time and avoid rinsing the mouth post clean as this washes away the fluoride that is so helpful.
Shop correctly and a manual brush and toothpaste can be sourced for just a £1 combined and last up to 3 months, that is just 1p per day!
For a more premium manual brush and a better quality paste you are likely looking at around £3 or £1 per month over a 3 month period.
If you want to spend more you can, but you do not have too.
Naturally electric toothbrushes are more expensive but these too are considerably cheaper than they once were. The more basic electric brushes bring often a better clean for only a relatively small initial cost.
£30 can buy an excellent brush like the Oral-B Pro 2 2000 and whilst initially more expensive than a AA/AAA battery brush works out cheaper in the long run.
In all our hands on reviews here at Electric Teeth, we work out the daily cost of owning toothbrushes. It is cheaper than you may think, unless you particularly need, want or can afford the premium options.
2 minutes, twice a day in the scheme of the day is not a lot of time. You may spend an hour commuting to and from work, 20 minutes on social networks, half an hour watching TV, so is 4 minutes or so over the course of a day really a big deal?!
It is easy to become distracted as cleaning teeth can be boring, it is all too easy for our mind to wander and become distracted.
Therefore it is important to keep things interesting.
Premium brushes, like the the Oral-B Genius 9000 come complete smartphone apps/timers that offer a good visual guide and keep you engaged with your clean.
Apps can log your cleaning performance and give you an indication on just how focused you have been. You do not want a sad face now do you! These apps even bring in things like news, weather and your photos to keep you interested.
Why not play your favourite song when cleaning your teeth. The minutes will fly by.
And of course the biggest motivational factor of all is that with clean and healthy teeth you will feel great, look good, have that extra confidence and get praised by your dentist and no pain or expensive medical bills.
How to clean your teeth properly with an electric toothbrush (step-by-step guide)
1.Place a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste onto a soft bristled brush.
Do not turn on the brush until it is against the teeth.
Visualise splitting your mouth into 4 sections or quadrants, focusing for 30 seconds on each. Upper right and left, lower right and left.
2. Starting with one of the upper quadrants, begin on with the outer surface, followed by the inner and chewing surfaces of the teeth. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth. Simply run the brush from tooth to tooth, there is no real need to move the brush head up and down or side to side, as the motion of the head produces the cleaning effect.
3. Focus on 1-2 teeth at a time and ensure you reach your back teeth. You need to spend 1-2 seconds on each tooth. Make sure the brush covers the whole tooth and includes the lower gumline.
4. Move to the other upper quadrant and continue to use the same technique and then move to the lower quadrant.
5. To clean behind the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically.
6. Brush your tongue to remove food particles and help remove food particles and odor-causing bacteria to freshen your breath.
Also brushing the inside of the cheeks is advised to help with freshness. You may prefer to turn off the brush at this point and use the stationary brush head like you would a manual brush.
7. Spit out excess remaining toothpaste.
Repeat this cycle a minimum of twice a day.
Some electric toothbrushes and specialist heads require a different approach. Consult your electric toothbrush manual or your dentist for further instruction.
Here is a video that we’ve created to show you how to clean your teeth with an electric toothbrush:
How to clean your teeth properly with a manual toothbrush (step-by-step guide)
1. Place a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste onto a soft bristled brush.
2. Start with the outer surfaces of the upper teeth followed by the bottom teeth. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth and in short strokes brush down from the gumline.
Small circular motions as well as a side to side, saw like motion is acceptable although less advised.
Brushing hard and fast is not the solution and is in fact inferior in the effectiveness of the clean.
Focus on 1-2 teeth at a time and reach your back teeth. You need to spend 1-2 seconds on each tooth.
Be sure to brush the whole tooth, including part of the gum.
3. Move to the inner surfaces or the upper and lower teeth, holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth, brushing up and away from the gums.
Continue to use the same motion as before, spending 1-2 seconds on each tooth.
4. Focus on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, holding the brush flat and moving back and forth along these surfaces.
5. To clean behind the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and use an up and down stroke motion with the tip of the brush.
6. Brush your tongue in a back-to-front sweeping motion to remove food particles and help remove food particles and odor-causing bacteria to freshen your breath. A quick brush of the inside of the cheeks is advised too.
7. Spit out excess remaining toothpaste.
In total spend 30 seconds on each of the 4 sections of the mouth, taking each clean to 2 minutes.
Repeat this cycle a minimum of twice a day.
Here is a video that we’ve created to show you how to brush your teeth with a manual toothbrush:
Other dental accessories that can help your oral hygiene
Whilst not strictly essential, the following products are worthwhile considering alongside a good tooth brushing routine.
Flossing and interdental cleaners
An essential part of of taking care of your teeth and gums, this should be performed at least once a day.
Flossing, completed correctly will assist in removing plaque from hard to reach areas in between the teeth where a toothbrush can struggle to reach.
Modern toothbrushes have scientifically engineered brush heads that get deeper in between the teeth, but the thin nature of floss allows it to reach areas brushes often cannot.
Floss generally comes on a reel from which your remove the desired length. However there are many products like floss picks that are generally more expensive but can be easier to use.
Other specialised tools like interdental cleaners may be better suited to your needs due to the differing designs and options available.
Taking about 18”/45cm of floss, wind the end around your middle finger on each hand. Use your thumbs and index fingers to guide floss between your teeth.
Wrap the floss around the sides of each tooth to make a C shape, this will help ensure you get between gums and teeth.
Gums should be firm and pink. If red, swollen or bleeding seek advice. However, a small amount of bleeding is quite common and should subside after a few days of flossing.
Some opt for water flossers which force water in between the teeth at high pressure. Some find this more comfortable, although often a more expensive way to complete flossing. For some this is more advisable.
For more information you may like to check out our flossing vs interdental brushes post.
The main purpose of mouthwash is to be an addition to your daily oral hygiene routine and should not replace brushing twice a day for 2 minutes.
A liquid based product, its main purpose is to freshen the mouth and breath, although many mouthwashes now have properties that assist in general oral care.
A fluoride based mouthwash can help protect teeth against acids produced by plaque bacteria.
Often available in different flavours you can find one you prefer.
Many do have alcohol included and these should be avoided if used by children.
The mouthwash should be gargled in the mouth for 30 seconds or so and then spat out. Do not swallow.
We have covered various mouthwash options in our best mouthwash article, but seek advice from a medical professional if you are not sure which mouthwash is right for you.
Plaque disclosing tablets, floss, swabs and solution
It may be obvious if your teeth are clean or not, but think again.
Just because you can not see any food debris, does not mean your teeth are clean.
Plaque is a colourless substance which builds up on the teeth, in between them and at the gumline. It is this that can be so damaging.
Ultimately your dentist will tell you whether or not you are cleaning your teeth correctly, but there are tools out there that can assist you.
Pop one into the mouth and chew. Mixing with saliva, swish around the mouth for about 30 seconds and spit out the excess.
The tablet contains a dye which sticks to the plaque and highlights areas that need attention.
Brushing the teeth will remove the dye and in turn the plaque. Continue to brush until all is removed.
Plaque disclosing formulas are available as swabs, a solution and floss, although tablets tend to be the most common option.
Safe to use, you may choose to use daily or weekly until you have perfected the technique. It does not hurt to complete, even when you have your technique honed, just to be sure!
This approach can be particularly useful with children, as they will see the fun in changing the colour of the teeth whilst helping them to learn.
Making the most of your toothbrush
Now that we’ve covered how to use an electric toothbrush or manual toothbrush, we’ll give a quick recap and go over some other topics you should bear in mind.
Remember, the correct technique is more important than the cost or quality of the the brush or toothbrush.
Master the technique and the premium brush and paste can come later.
Focus on the brush stroke action including angle, positioning and time. Brushing harder and faster is not the answer. Perfect the technique.
Do not overdo it. If struggling, take a break and try again later.
If you have not been cleaning your teeth correctly, it can take time to learn a new process or habit. Thankfully the human brain is very quick to learn and reprogramme to remember how to complete a process.
Learning how to do something right can take time.
Initially, getting the correct technique may take a little longer, but as you become more familiar with the process and how to do the job properly, the easier it will become.
The more time spent investing in doing it right now WILL help in the long term.
Cleaning and maintaining
No toothbrush will last forever.
A manual toothbrush should be replaced every 3 months, whilst the head on an electric brush should be replaced at the same intervals as a manual brush.
An electric brush is usually guaranteed for 2-3 years and could last you longer.
To ensure your brush performs as expected, rinse the bristles and handle after use, wiping off excess moisture, dirt and bacteria that may build up on it. For more detailed instructions, see our post how to clean your electric toothbrush.
Try to protect the bristles of the brush as damaged bristles are ineffective.
If you are particularly keen to ensure the brush is clean there are through sanitisation options available but these incur more time and often cost.
Replacing your toothbrush
The head on a toothbrush (the part with the bristles) should be replaced on average every 3 months.
Avoid leaving it longer than this if possible, and do look to replace sooner than 3 months if the bristles show signs of wear.
Damaged bristles will hinder the cleaning process.
If using a manual brush, the whole brush will need replacing. If you don’t like to throw the entire handle away (it’s not great for the environment), check out the Boie toothbrush, which has removable brush heads.
If using an electric toothbrush just the head will need to be replaced. We’ve covered this in more detail in our post how often should I change my brush head?
Whilst all brushes will at some point show signs of wear on the bristles, premium brush bristles change colour to indicate the need for change.
Take a look at the images below (click to enlarge) which show different brush heads at different stages and in different conditions.
The life of each brush head varies from user but on average 3 months is the recommended time frame for replacing, even if you think it looks ok!
If you do need to dispose of your toothbrush or brush heads, see our post on recycling an electric toothbrush.
How to brush your teeth checklist
- Clean the front, back and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the tooth’s surface
- Spend 30 seconds on each quadrant, that is a couple of seconds per tooth.
- Be sure to reach the back of the mouth and to brush along the gumline.
- Do also brush the tongue and even the cheeks.
- Brush twice a day for 2 minutes.
- Floss once a day.
- Use mouthwash to freshen the breath
More Toothbrushing tips
- Brush for 2 minutes twice a day using only a pea sized amount of toothpaste.
- Break the mouth up into 4 quadrants, spending 30 seconds on each.
- Focus on 1-3 teeth at a time spending 1 or 2 seconds on each.
- Make sure you pay attention to your rear teeth.
- Floss once a day, opt for special flossing tools or interdental brushes if you find this easier.
- Brush the tongue and even inside of the cheeks to help remove bacteria and keep a fresh mouth.
- If possible use a mouthwash to leave the mouth feeling fresh. Consider an alcohol-free solution especially when used by children.
- Do not brush too hard or too fast. Too much pressure can damage your teeth and the bristles on the brush reducing effectiveness.
- If necessary brush after a meal, but do not overdo it as ass much brushing is not good.
- If brushing after eating or drinking wait 45 minutes to an hour as residual sugars or acid juices from food and liquid can actually damage the enamel.
- Rinsing water around the mouth is a good option to remove excess food particles and freshen the mouth and can be completed straight after eating.
- Opt for a brush with short bristles. Longer bristles require longer movements which can be difficult to achieve in the restricted space of a mouth.
- Electric toothbrushes are often advised, because they require less effort and achieve a good clean. However the right technique is most important.
- Consider the use a toothpick to remove larger out food particles from between your teeth.
- Avoid excessive amounts of sugary drinks or foods and liquids that can stain the teeth like tea, coffee and red wine.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months.
- Visit a dentist regularly, preferably every 6 months or at least once a year.
- Speak to your dentist for professional cleaning advice for your teeth.
This is a guide based on general medical advice and experience. Personal situations vary and you should always consult your dentist or medical profession for specific advice on how best to clean for your teeth.