1. You pick the wrong brush.
How do you choose from the mind-melting selection of brushes at your local supermarket?
Kimberly Harms, a dentist from Farmington, MN, says make sure your brush can cover the places that need covering. That’s everywhere you should be able to reach with a toothbrush. It can be a power toothbrush or a manual one. But there is one rule Harms says isn’t negotiable.
“The one thing that we really insist upon -- it’s very important -- is it has to have soft bristles,” she says. “The bristles need to be able to bend, to kind of get right under that gum.”
The size of the brush’s head is important, too, especially if you have a smaller mouth. Brushes also have various sizes of handles and different angles. Some are more flexible than others.
“Soft bristles clean very effectively, more than the hard bristles. The hard bristles actually can wear down your tooth structure.”
Look for the American Dental Association seal of approval on your new brush, too.
2. You go to town on your teeth.
When it comes to brushing, harder isn’t better.
“I think one of the biggest issues that people have is that they try to scrub their teeth too hard. They feel like if they really don’t go at the teeth, like they’re trying to clean the grout in their bathroom tile, that they’re not doing the right job,” says Matt Messina, a dentist from Fairview Park, OH.
Plaque is soft and loose, so you don’t have to scrub, Messina says.
“The best way to fix this is to take away the mental issue of ‘scrub’ and ‘scrub brush’ and replace it with the word ‘massage.’”
3. You rush.
You should brush at least twice a day for 2 minutes each time. But you’re late for school or work. Or you want to get to bed. Once in a while, you need to cut that brushing short.
“We used to suggest, back in the day, we’d talk about using an egg timer or something like that,” Messina says. “But everybody has this wonderful thing on their body all the time now called a cell phone. If you want to set a timer and set it for 2 minutes, that’s great.
“I see a lot of young people walking around with headphones on,” she says. “If you can leave your headphones in and put on a song, your average pop song’s in the 2-3 minute range. So if you brush while you listen to one of your favorite songs, you’ve probably been in there long enough.”
4. You hold on too long.
When you find a good toothbrush, it’s sometimes hard to give it up. But when you see changes in the bristles -- when they become discolored, bent, or dirty looking -- it’s time to chuck the brush.
It loses its powers when the bristles become frayed. So change it at least every 3 to 4 months. Also, it’s smart not to share your brush with anyone else. And keep it in the open air to keep mold or bacteria from growing on it when it’s wet.