Medically reviewed by Dr. James Ko

7 Common Oral Hygiene Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

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Many, if not most periodontal diseases are caused by not brushing your teeth enough, both in quantity and quality. We all know how annoying and painful the visit to the dentist for a procedure can be, and we would want to avoid it as much as we can.

Brushing your teeth regularly at least twice a day is fairly obvious, but it’s just as important to brush your teeth the right way.

Here, we will share the 7 most common brushing mistakes done by many of us, and how to fix them.

Let’s start with the first one.

1.Using the wrong toothbrush

When shopping for a toothbrush, we are often bombarded with all the different options promising “the best possible technologies for your oral hygiene”. Yet, using the wrong toothbrush can do you more harm than good, and especially damage the gum if you are not careful.

While there are so many different shapes, styles, sizes, and technologies from these toothbrushes, there are several main considerations

  • choose a head size that can reach all areas of your mouth, including the back molar teeth
  • Unless you have special needs, a soft-bristled brush is preferable to avoid unnecessary gum damage
  • For the type of handle, you can pick anything you are comfortable with. The toothbrush head size and bristle type are the most important considerations

It’s common to think that the harder the bristles, the more they’ll clean, but most dentists will say otherwise: choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid gum injuries.

Read more: Advantages of dental bridges for missing teeth

2. Brushing too hard

Similar to the case about bristles, brushing harder isn’t necessarily better.

Scrubbing our teeth too hard is also one of the most common mistakes done by a lot of people, which is understandable since that’s the way it is with other similar cleaning activities: when we go hard at it, it cleans better.

However, plaque and food debris are relatively loose and soft, so hard scrubbing isn’t necessary most of the time.

Instead, think of toothbrushing as massaging your teeth: do it softly with just a little amount of pressure. Brushing too hard might damage your gums, and also the surfaces of your teeth that might lead to decay.

3. Forgetting the gum line

The gum line is an area where bacteria often accumulates, and yet also the area we often forget to brush.

We should brush the area just under the gum tissue, 1 to three millimeters under the gum. This is why we need a toothbrush with soft and flexible bristles that are able to bend.

To do this, hold the bush at a 45-degree angle just against the gumline, and use up-down strokes to softly. Also, don’t forget to brush your tongue, since this is also an area frequented by bacteria.

Last but not least, you should also cover the inside (tongue-side) parts of your teeth, as well as the gumline.

Bacteria and plaque accumulations on the gumline can lead to inflammation and various kinds of oral diseases, so don’t neglect this area of your mouth.

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4. Not taking care of your toothbrush and replacing it often enough

First, maintaining your toothbrush is actually pretty simple: simple rinse it with water after each use and let it air dry.

In most cases, avoid using a toothbrush cover since if not cleaned properly, the cover can be a place for bacteria to linger.

Also, another common mistake is not picking a new toothbrush quick enough. It’s often that people keep using the same toothbrush until they are at the dentist for one reason or another and are told to replace.

Using an old toothbrush can do you more harm than good, since old bristles won’t be as effective and might damage your gum if you’re not careful. In general, we should change our brush every couple of months or so, or when the bristles are visibly splaying outwards.

5. Not brushing the right way

Some people go strictly up and down with their brushing, some others brush in tiny circles, as well as other similar mistakes.

Admittedly, we often got these bad habits from dentists and oral hygienists, so the mistake is not always our own. The periodontal science is still evolving, and nowadays, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends to first hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, and then gently brush your teeth with a short back and forth motion.

Use this back and forth motion to brush both the inner and outer surfaces of the teeth, and switch to up and down motion for the front teeth while tilting the brush vertically.

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6. You brush too soon after a meal

It’s a common mistake to brush too soon just after we finished our meal, often through guilt after we ate too much, or some people just couldn’t wait to get rid of food remnants, especially when they are sticky or unpleasant.

However, after a meal, we often have acid sitting in our mouth, while our toothpastes are often made of abrasive materials. When combined, acid and abrasives can erode and damage your tooth.

So, wait at least 15 to 20 minutes so your saliva can naturally break down the acid before you brush.

If you absolutely need to brush, however, the alternative is to rinse out your mouth with water several times to get rid of some of that acid.

7. You brush too fast

Some people make the mistake of rushing through your brushing, which often occurs when we are in a hurry, like when we are late for school or work or when you are absolutely tired and just want to get on that bed.

However, brushing too fast will translate to not cleaning enough, and you might also injure your gum or teeth in the process if you are using fast stroking movements.

In general, brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time. You can use a timer, play a song that is around 2 minutes long, or even watch a video to make sure.

End Words

Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can help maintain oral hygiene and avoid painful periodontal diseases. However, regular visits to the dentist every six months are still necessary, and dentists at Markham Smile Centre can make you feel at home in providing you with professional periodontal advice and treatments.

Andrea Galick

Andrea Galick is an accomplished Dental Hygienist (RDH) with a passion for helping patients achieve optimal oral health. Andrea has built a reputation as a caring and skilled practitioner who puts her patients at ease and provides individualized care that meets their unique needs.

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