Brushing and Flossing Correctly

Woman flossing her teeth and smiling at the camera

Did you know that there are correct methods for brushing and flossing your teeth? Brushing and flossing are some of the most essential habits you need if you want a healthy mouth, but these habits are often done incorrectly. Find out the proper way to perform brushing and flossing, how often they should be done, and how they benefit you!


Brushing Correctly

Many people don’t realize that there are specific, yet easy, guidelines for brushing and flossing their teeth. Brushing is perhaps the most important oral hygiene habit you can have if you want to avoid chronic oral health conditions like tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, if more people brushed, these problems could be eliminated entirely, or be reduced significantly. 92% of people in the U.S. have had at least one, but likely more, cavities during their life. Tooth decay (cavities) is actually one of the most chronic, prevalent diseases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why? Because people simply don’t brush enough or don’t do their brushing and flossing correctly.


When brushing, follow these guidelines:

  • Use a toothbrush for your mouth size. Infants have infant and gum brushes, children have various sizes of toothbrush heads as they grow, and adults have larger toothbrush heads. Using a toothbrush that fits your mouth will give you a better clean.
  • Brush for at least 2 minutes, every time. That’s 1 minute for the upper jaw and lower jaw each.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste and one that has the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance, meaning it has been tested for its effectiveness.
  • Brush every tooth surface, front to back, top to bottom, and in circular motions to dislodge food particles.
  • Use rice-sized amounts of toothpaste for an infant, pea size for a toddler, bean-sized for a child, and just a bit more for teens and adults.
  • Brush your tongue to remove food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath and dental decay.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or when the bristles become frayed.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush so it’s not too harsh on your teeth or gums.


Floss and a toothbrush behind it

Why Is Flossing Important?

Many patients think that flossing is fairly unimportant. However, about 40% of your teeth surfaces can only be reached when you floss! It goes where plaque and food reside and where a toothbrush and mouthwash can’t reach. However, don’t just quickly put floss through all your teeth or you’re only doing a partial job.


When flossing, experts recommend that you use about 18 inches of new floss, which will allow 2-3 inches of new floss for every few teeth. Wind floss around one pointer or middle finger on one hand and around the other. Pull the floss taunt and pull it up towards your gums between your teeth. Not all patients realize that they have to go up into the gum line when flossing. You should floss both sides of that triangular gum part between all your teeth. You will be able to go up under this triangular gum part until the floss naturally stops where your gums meet your teeth.


As you go through your teeth, make sure you pull the taught floss down your teeth, scraping them as you move up and down to get rid of stuck-on plaque. Floss your teeth really well, going over all the molars twice if you need to. Make sure to floss at least once, if not more times a day, and especially before bed so food doesn’t have time to sit in your mouth all night.


Brushing and Flossing at the Dentist

The ADA recommends that patients visit the dentist at least twice a year for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings. This biannual appointment is so important that many insurance companies cover it for patients. Studies have found that tooth decay can happen both quickly and slowly, but not too much will happen within a 6-month period. This is a good amount of time to find small instances of tooth decay that is starting to form.


You will have brushing and flossing at the dentist, except this will be a much deeper clean than what you would get at home. The dental hygienist will use hand tools to scrape all the teeth to remove plaque and stuck-on tartar. They clean every tooth meticulously, removing substances that you can’t get off on your own at home. Your hygienist will then brush and polish every tooth individually with electrical polishing tools, getting all the tooth surfaces. This is especially beneficial for your back teeth, which can be hard to clean. They will then floss between all the teeth looking for gum problems and bleeding. You will receive a fluoride treatment during your appointment as well and x-rays at least once a year, if not at every appointment. These will strengthen your teeth and find signs of decay.


Woman putting toothpaste on a toothbrush

Better Oral Hygiene Habits

Brushing and flossing are the best oral hygiene habits you could have for your mouth. If you do nothing else, make sure you are brushing and flossing daily, several times a day for at least two minutes. That goes for infants as well, as their delicate teeth can decay even faster than an adult’s! Besides brushing and flossing and visiting the dentist, many patients also do fluoride treatments at home. Fluoride is a natural substance that makes a type of barrier for your teeth that protects against plaque and tooth decay. Fluoride treatments every day and using fluoridated toothpaste can strengthen your teeth. Many public water sources are also fluoridated for this purpose.


Other patients benefit from using mouthwash. This can kill germs and decay-causing bacteria that lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath and other oral health conditions. There are many steps you can take towards having a healthier mouth. Start with brushing and flossing properly. Then call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425 to schedule your appointment or to learn more about what you can do for your teeth!