How to Brush Your Teeth

Why Brush your Teeth?

Tooth brushing has two aims:

  • To remove plaque (bacteria)
  • To massage fluoride in and around all of your teeth

This will help prevent/reduce the chance of getting:

  • Bad Breath

The key area to brush is where the gum meets the tooth- this is where most plaque/bacteria collect.

How do I use a Normal (Manual) Toothbrush?

There are two basic methods of brushing that have been around for many years. There is no reason why you need to stick to a particular one- I personally like to vary it up and use a bit of both; circles- where it is easy to do and vibration/flicks- in the more hard to reach spots.

  • The roll method. This is using gentle circles to go round and round on your teeth, brushing into the cuff of gum at the base of the tooth to remove the plaque where it mostly collects.
  • The bass method. This is a gentle horizontal scrub – not sure I like the word scrub – it suggests you have to go at it hammer and tong. Let’s say instead… ‘gentle horiztonal back and forth vibration’, combined with flicking away from the gums to dislodge food and plaque.
  • Do angle the tooth brush bristles to point down at 45 degrees towards the gum.
  • Don’t using long horizontal scrubbing strokes as demonstrated here – this doesn’t remove any extra plaque- just causes toothbrush abrasion, your gums to recede and roots to wear which can lead to sensitivity and un-slightly notches on your teeth which may need fillings.
  • Do brush gently/ Don’t brush hard.

How do I use an Electric Toothbrush?

These brushes, whether they oscillate or vibrate (sonic) do the majority, but not all the hard work for you. The key here is to move the toothbrush into the right position that means all the way from the cuff of gum where the tooth and gum meet up the length of the tooth. Watch yourself closely by pulling your lip back to see you are doing it properly. We all go into auto pilot and start missing bits so every now spend that little bit extra time and check you are doing it right.

  • Do spend about 1- 2 seconds on every surface of every tooth- that means the front, the top and the side and if you have missing teeth- in between.
  • Do use the timer if it have one.
  • Don’t brush normally with the electric toothbrush just hold it in the right places.
  • Don’t hold it for too long in any one spot eg. whilst watching TV, or you can do as I did once; wear your gum away a little.
  • Don’t press hard- just gently put the bristles onto the tooth.

Am I Brushing Too Hard?

I have shared a flat with a few different people over the past few years and it always amazes how ridiculously hard people brush- I see them doing it and I cringe.

Hard is not good. Right is good.

If your toothbrush looks like you have used it to clean in-between the tiles of your shower after a few weeks or couple of months; you are brushing too hard. If you can see any areas of your roots that are exposed with no history of gum disease- particulary on your premolars, 1st molars and canines in that order; you may be brushing too hard, (or may have been at some point in the past). Your dentist will be able to advise you if you have any signs of wear and give you a gentle tap on the wrist, then point you in the right direction. Our toothbrush abrasion section discusses this in considerably more detail.

If you brush too hard- try holding the brush as you would hold a pen- this makes it more difficult to apply excessive pressure. Remember plaque is a very soft substance and doesn’t need much effort to remove it- just a little pressure in the right place. If it’s left long enough to turn into the hard tartar or calculus (most commonly found on the backs of your lower anterior [front] teeth), no amount of tooth-brushing will remove it; this is a job for your dentist or hygieneist and their specialized tools.

The Dos and Don’ts of General Toothbrushing


  • Do brush twice a day for 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Do use the correct technique as demonstrated by your dentist, hygienist or us.
  • Do brush gently- small movements not too much pressure.
  • Do replace your toothbrush if the bristles start to deform.
  • Do focus your efforts around the gumline.
  • Do have a systematic approach – make sure you have brushed every surface of every tooth. Always start in one place and finish in one place, that way you know you have covered every tooth.


  • Don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes, better still, one hour after having anything sugary or acidic.
  • Don’t multi-task i.e. brush whilst watching TV etc. You are likely to forget which areas you have brushed and which ones you haven’t, meaning some get a double clean and some miss out.
  • Don’t rush – it will save you money, time and dental visits in the long run.
  • Don’t brush fast and hard- you will only end up hurting your gums or causing tooth wear.