It’s not exactly a newsflash that one of the most important reasons to brush your teeth is to fight off cavities (not to mention prevent bad breath). But what if the way you brush your teeth actually makes you more susceptible to cavities, tooth decay and gum disease? Scary.
You don’t brush for long enough.
Most people don’t spend nearly enough time brushing their teeth, notes prosthodontist Michael Lenchner. Most dentists recommend brushing for two or three minutes, but few people ever make it to that. Next time, check your watch see how long your routine takes.
Chances are, whether you’re rushing to get to work or ready to collapse into bed, you’re only brushing for a minute or so. To go the distance, bring an egg timer into the bathroom and set it for two or three minutes before you get started, or use an electric toothbrush with a two-minute timer.
You’re not watching what you’re doing.
Make a point to look in the mirror while you brush your teeth and see where the brush is actually going. It’s easy to miss the area right at the gum line, which is the most important part. That’s where plaque, tartar and bacteria can build up, which cause the gums to become inflamed and infected (aka gingivitis). Also keep a close eye on the back molars. If the brush head hits your cheek before you get to them you could miss them completely. Bonus: Paying better attention to your chompers will increase the likelihood that you’ll notice if something is awry, like chips, cracks or “bruxisms,” which are cupped out or overly shiny areas where your upper and lower teeth might be wearing into one another. Wearing away can also be a sign of TMJ problems, clenching or sleep apnea. Mention any unusual observations at your next dentist appointment.