"In our office, we often put a toothbrush in a patient's hand and ask him to show us how [he] brush[es] [his] teeth," explains Ted Sherwin, DDS, FAGD, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. "Having a good tooth brushing technique is that important."

While some of the foods you eat can help to naturally remove the debris, the two specific areas that don't clean themselves are at the gum line and in the valleys or crevices of the teeth. Those are the areas you need to clean thoroughly and if you don't, you could be setting yourself up for future health problems.

10 Steps for a Good Tooth Brushing Technique

Here are Sherwin's tips on how to properly address hard-to-react places with proper teeth cleaning:

1. Make sure you have a toothbrush that fits comfortably on your hand. Look for one with a compact-sized head with soft bristles to help you easily maneuver the back of your mouth. Also, look for a toothbrush that's flexible enough to get all of the angles and corners of your teeth thoroughly. Plan to replace your toothbrush every three months (or sooner if the bristles look worn down) or when you've been ill.

2. Select toothpaste with fluoride and a very mild abrasive. (Most toothpaste brands today meet this description so you don't have to spend a fortune for best results.)

3. Start with the toothbrush turned down 45 degrees toward your gum line and so that the bristles sweep the junction between your gum and your teeth. Use very small, circular motions.

4. Work from the back corner of one side of your mouth and move to the other side using circular motions.

5. Focus on two or three teeth at a time.

6. Brush the cheek side of your mouth (outside of teeth) first and then repeat the steps on the inside.

7. Go back and clean the valleys on the top of your teeth going forward and backward with the brush, then from side to side, in order to get the full tooth surface.

8. Finish by brushing your tongue to remove any debris and lingering bad-breath-causing bacteria.

9. Plan to brush twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

10. Make sure each teeth cleaning session lasts a full two minutes. You can set a timer to check yourself.

Extra Help for Your Oral Care Routine

If you have any mobility limitations or simply want some extra help to improve results, Sherwin advises trying a small mechanical toothbrush that provides the small circular motions you need to get your teeth very clean. And regardless of what toothbrush you use, floss regularly and see your dentist twice a year to ensure clean teeth and a healthy mouth. For more information on recommended tooth brushing routines and oral care, visit the Academy of General Dentistry's website at http://www.knowyourteeth.com.

Dr. Sherwin reviewed this article.



Academy of General Dentistry: Knowyourteeth.com. "What is the best technique for brushing?" Jan. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

American Dental Association: MouthHealthy.org. "Brushing Your Teeth." N.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2012.

American Dental Hygienist Association: ADHA.org. "Proper Brushing." N.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2012.

CBSNews.com. "Tooth Brushing 101: For Grownups." 11 Feb. 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2012.

Ted Sherwin, DDS, FAGD, Academy of General Dentistry. Phone Interview Oct. 5, 2012.