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How long should you brush your teeth?

Have you ever given any thought to just how long you’re supposed to brush your teeth? Probably not. We’ve all been doing it so long that we hardly think about it. It’s practically automatic.

But it might be time for a reminder. If you want to keep and improve your dental health, you may want to consider updating your brushing routine.

Best practices for brushing teeth

In addition to using American Dental Association-recommended tools and supplies, there are two main components to brushing your teeth: time and technique.

Time — How long should I brush my teeth? Dentists recommend that you follow the 2/2 rule to keep your teeth healthy.1 They advise brushing for two minutes, twice a day, usually in the morning and before you go to bed at night.

Each time you brush, be sure to clean the inner, outer, and chewing sides of your teeth. In two minutes time, you can do a good job of cleaning all of your teeth.

How can you be sure you are brushing for at least two minutes? You could try a tooth brushing timer.

Many electric models now have a built-in toothbrush timer to help remind you just how long you should brush your teeth. These teeth brushing timers are automatically set for two minutes. When it stops, you can stop.

But what if you use a regular toothbrush? How do you know when you’ve reached two minutes? You could create your own toothbrush timer! For example, you could:

  • Use the timer on your cell phone
  • Put on one of your favorite songs (which usually last two minutes or longer)
  • Use a stopwatch
  • Use a sand timer from a board game (But check to see how long it lasts first. You may have to flip it more than once to get to two minutes.)
  • Go old school and use a clock

Any of these ideas can help keep you on track until the two-minute period becomes second nature.

Can you brush too long? Probably not. But there are some things you might want to know about how you brush your teeth.

Technique — What is the correct way to brush your teeth? How you brush is as important as how long you brush. So what is the right way to brush your teeth?

Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle when you brush. Use short strokes, moving back and forth over your teeth and gumline.2 Use the tip of the brush to get behind the front teeth. Also, take a few seconds to brush your tongue, which can be covered in bacteria.3 Plus brushing it helps keep your breath fresh.

One note of caution: You can brush too hard. Applying too much pressure as you brush can wear away at tooth enamel.4 The enamel is the layer that protects your teeth from cavities. Brushing too forcefully can damage the enamel and irritate your gums. Try brushing with your non-dominant hand for a lighter touch.

Brushing your teeth is good for your health

If you don't brush your teeth well, germs can stay stuck on and between your teeth. Over time, this can lead to red, tender, swollen gums, or gingivitis.5 What’s worse, if gingivitis progresses, you could end up with periodontitis, or full-blown gum disease.6

Why does this matter? Research suggests that gum disease is linked to heart disease.7 So good dental care, including proper brushing and flossing, will not only keep your teeth healthy and your breath fresh, it may also help protect your heart.

Now that you know how long you should brush your teeth, and the correct way to brush your teeth, it’s time to put it into action. Take a look at the article “Tips for good brushing habits” for more pointers on best practices for brushing teeth.

If you ever find yourself needing to brush, but without a toothbrush, there are some measures you can take. See the article “Seven tips for cleaning your teeth without a toothbrush.”

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