Looking after your teeth and oral health is incredibly important.
For the majority of us, all we need to do to have a healthy mouth and teeth is:
- Brush twice a day for 2 minutes
- Floss once a day
- Have regular dental checkups
But to achieve this there are some really important things that you should know and understand.
In the guide below we have included brief answers to common teeth brushing questions. Each question can be expanded for more information and we have included links to more detailed answers.
Please leave a comment if anything is unclear, and always consult a dental professional if you are unsure of anything.
Click one of the links below to jump to a particular section:
Teeth brushing FAQ
When should you brush your teeth? Before going to bed and at another time throughout the day, preferably first thing in the morning.
Opinion is pretty much a unanimous when it comes to recommendations on brushing last thing at night.
Different opinions exist on whether it is before or after breakfast you should brush your teeth though. Most professionals side with, before breakfast.
Continue reading: Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?
How long and how often should you brush? Brush for 2 minutes, twice a day.
Should you brush your teeth after eating?
The simple answer is no.
Whilst ultimately brushing after a meal is better than not brushing at all, ideally you should wait 30 minutes before brushing as if you have consumed sugary or acidic food or drink, brushing straight after can be abrasive on and wear away the tooth's enamel.
This question is part of a wider discussion and difference of opinion on when the right time is to brush your teeth.
Continue reading: Should you brush your teeth after eating?
Can you brush your teeth too much? Yes, referred to as over-brushing, it is possible to brush too frequently.
Brushing more frequently or for longer than required can potentially damage the teeth and gums and is really not required.
Recommendations around the world for how frequently and for how long you should brush do differ. In Korea, 3 minutes, 3 times a day is the recommendation, but the UK and America advise 2 minutes twice a day.
Continue reading: Can you brush your teeth too much?
What happens if you don’t brush your teeth? Nothing positive comes of failing to clean your teeth.
Plaque buildup will be the primary result of not brushing, but this can be followed by gum disease, possible tooth loss and other health conditions.
The mouth is a gateway into the human body and is in many respects the first line of defence.
Failing to take care of your teeth can cost you financially but emotionally in the associated stress and pain.
Prevention of dental health issues is best.
If you really want to find out what could happen, read our article in ‘what happens if you don’t brush your teeth’ which includes the story of one person who didn’t properly take care of their teeth for 20 years, the results are not for the faint-hearted.
Continue reading: What happens if you don't brush your teeth?
Should you rinse after brushing? No, you should spit but not rinse.
You may have been shown by your parents or seen it on TV to rinse after brushing.
Don’t do it.
Spit out excess toothpaste but do not rinse out.
Rinsing after brushing washes away much of the goodness left behind by the toothpaste.
Find out why by reading our article ‘should you rinse after brushing’ that examines this very question
Continue reading: Should you rinse after brushing?
What type of toothpaste should you use? Picking the right type of toothpaste is important.
There are a varying number of ingredients included in toothpaste, but in most instances you want a fluoride based toothpaste.
- Adults - Use a paste with at least 1,350 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride.
- Children (6+) - A toothpaste with 1,350-1,500 ppm of fluoride. Need to be a special children's toothpaste.
- Children (3-6) - Providing no tooth decay is present a paste containing at least 1,000 ppm of fluoride.
In some instances your dentist may advise using a toothpaste with a higher concentration of fluoride, particularly for children, if you need it.
For those who wish to understand what makes up a tube of toothpaste, have a read of our post that explains toothpaste ingredients.
Continue reading: Toothpaste ingredients
Bleeding gums when brushing teeth? This isn't normal, but don't panic until you have done more research.
Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing your teeth is not normal.
At no point should you be content with finding that your gums are bleeding, you need to do something about it and you should not ignore it.
However, don’t panic.
In many cases this is caused by a buildup of plaque which can normally be dealt with at home by brushing and flossing regularly.
You should not need to see a dentist unless your bleeding is heavy, constant or continues after a couple of weeks of correct and regular brushing.
Continue reading: Bleeding gums when brushing teeth
A step-by-step guide to teeth brushing
There are 5 sides to each tooth and you need to make sure you clean them all properly.
With regular brushing, you should brush the front and back of them along with the chewing surfaces.
The bristles of the brush will reach part of the sides of the teeth, but this is where interdental cleaning or flossing comes in.
To get the best clean, ensure you are using the right technique.
Did you know the brush head needs to align with the teeth at an angle of 45 degrees?
Did you know the brushing technique is different with a manual and electric toothbrush?
Check out our step by step guides:
Flossing & Mouthwash
Flossing & oral care FAQ
How often should you floss? Once a day is the recommendation from leading dental professionals and bodies around the world.
Whether it is first thing in the morning or last thing at night, it does not matter.
Ideally you will make use of floss and interdental brushes but it is about finding the tools that work for you.
Read our article on how often should you floss to learn why this is.
Continue reading: How often should you floss?
Should you floss before or after brushing? You should floss before brushing, if possible.
It is however not essential. You can floss after if you wish. What is most important is that you floss daily, and thoroughly with the correct technique.
Read our article on flossing before or after brushing to learn why the general consensus is to floss before brushing.
Continue reading: Should you floss before or after brushing?
What are the best flossing tools? We take a look at the various tools available in our detailed guide.
Flossing and interdental cleaning may well be a necessary evil to ensure good dental health, but there are tools available that can make the process of interdental cleaning easier.
From floss threaders to water flossers all have a place and it is about finding the tools that work best for you and encourage you to clean regularly and effectively.
Continue reading: Best Flossing Tools
Floss vs interdental brushes Two different tools that to a point achieve the same result.
Both have a place and it is about using the right tool for the job. Many should be using a combination of both.
Interdental brushes can be more convenient, but typically work better in larger gaps between teeth, whilst floss is great for reaching into the trickiest and tightest of gaps.
Read our article ‘interdental cleaning - floss vs interdental brushes’ to better understand the differences and the pros and cons. Then speak to your dentist or hygienist to find out which is right for you.
Continue reading: Floss vs interdental brushes
How to use interdental brushes
The way in which you use interdental brushes varies slightly depending on whether you are cleaning the inter-proximal spaces of the front and rear teeth..
The key steps with both front and rear interproximal spaces is to:
Gently insert the appropriately sized brush into the space between the teeth, at gum level. Twist the brush slightly in a clockwise direction to help the brush access and fit into the gap. This can too prolong the life of the brush.
When inserted, gently move the brush in a backwards and forwards motion, the full length of the brush. Repeat this several times to remove plaque and debris.
More detailed tips and explanation, particularly on reaching the rear teeth is available here in our extensive explanation into interdental brushes.
This video from Andre Hedger does too provide some useful insight and tips.
Continue reading: How to use interdental brushes
Should you use mouthwash? This is optional, it is not necessary, but there may be benefits that you wish to take advantage of.
Mouthwash is not a replacement to your normal tooth brushing and flossing routine.
You should NOT use it straight after brushing either. Use at another time of day where you want a refresh but will unlikely be brushing, say just after lunch.
There are a few misunderstandings about mouthwash — learn more about what it offers and those that we recommend in our best mouthwash article.
Continue reading: Best mouthwash
How to brush your tongue There are just 7 steps involved in brushing your tongue.
- Stick out your tongue as far as possible.
- Using a mirror look for areas of the tongue with most buildup of debris. Normally at the centre and back of the tongue. It is generally a white colour.
- Place your tongue scraper or brush onto the tongue, being sure to target the area most-affected.
- Press down gently with the scraper or brush and pull the cleaner from the back toward the tip of the tongue.
- Rinse the scraper clean under a running tap to remove removed debris.
- Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 until no more debris can be removed.
- If desired, rinse with an anti-bacterial mouthwash.
To learn why you should brush your tongue, our article ‘how to brush your tongue’ explains this in detail as well as providing helpful tips.
Continue reading: How to brush your tongue
How to use dental floss
The exact approach you take to floss your teeth can vary slightly depending on the type of flossing product used and the size of the gaps between teeth..
When using regular dental floss, be that sting or tape, the approach to follow is:
- Step 1: Pull out and cut off the reel of floss about 18 inches (45cm)
- Step 2: Wrap the ends around your two pointer fingers, and stretch it between them, so it is fairly taught, leaving about 6 inches between the two fingers.
- Step 3: Gently position the floss in between teeth, flex the floss slightly so it cups around the edge of one tooth in an C like shape. Move the floss up and down to get rid of plaque. Repeat this for the tooth on the other side of that same gap.
- Step 4: Repeat this for the tooth on the other side of that same gap.
- Step 5: Repeat this process for all teeth and gaps in the mouth.
- Step 6: Dispose of the floss.
We talk more about flossing options in our best dental floss article.
Choosing a toothbrush
If you need some help choosing a toothbrush, be sure to check out the content we've linked to below — we're a website dedicated to helping you choose the right toothbrush.
Once you've chosen a toothbrush, make sure you check back to our article on how to keep it clean.
- Electric vs manual - do you want an electric toothbrush or a manual one?
- Best Electric Toothbrush - this is our guide to help you choose an electric toothbrush
- Best Manual Toothbrush - this is our guide to help you choose a manual toothbrush
- Toothbrush Comparison Tool - this is our tool that lets you compare two particular electric toothbrushes side-by-side
If you are unsure about anything, seek professional advice
The information provided is to be used as a general guide and to help you understand how and why the teeth and mouth are looked after in the way that they are.
Always take professional advice from a dentist and consult them should you have any queries or concerns.