This Is Exactly How Long You Need to Brush Your Teeth

You've been brushing your teeth since you were a small child. That kind of muscle memory means that you probably aren't really thinking about what you're doing while you're doing it, which raises the question: Are you brushing your teeth right?

You probably have a decent guess when it comes to how long you should brush your teeth for. But is it backed up by science? We spoke to Dr. Paul Luepke, Chair of Surgical Sciences, Professor, and Postdoctorate Director in Periodontics at Marquette University, School of Dentistry, for an expert opinion. “I would say two minutes, twice a day, for brushing,” Dr. Luepke said. Two minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can be easy to stop early and think you’ve done a thorough job. We recommend setting a timer, playing a favourite song that is at least two minutes long, or, as Dr. Luepke pointed out, using an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer.

Do I need to floss every day?

Unfortunate news for all of us: Yes. You do need to floss your teeth every day. Dr. Ryan Dodge, a dentist practicing at Howell Comprehensive General Dentistry, told Reader’s Digest that “It is important to clean in between your teeth once a day with floss, floss picks, or a water flosser to eliminate tooth decay–causing bacteria that harbour between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach.” A water flosser is a great option for people who hate to manually floss between every tooth. It can reach areas of your mouth that you might have difficulty getting to with your hands and a string of floss. It can also save you time! Water flossing can take only a few minutes for a well-cared-for mouth. For those who would rather go the old-fashioned route, Dr. Luepke gives this flossing-time tip: “Flossing is by tooth, so it is not that time-dependent. If [the floss] is not waxed, wait for the squeak, and then mouthwash 30 seconds.”

Is mouthwash just for bad breath?

That brings us to another good point. Mouthwash: It’s not just for bad breath anymore. A quality mouthwash or mouth rinse can help rinse and remove any plaque that brushing and flossing didn’t get rid of, and can help prevent and reduce tartar and gingivitis. Be sure to get alcohol-free mouthwash so it doesn’t dry out your mouth! (Here’s what your bad breath is trying to tell you.)

What else do I need to do for good oral hygiene?

Beyond brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a good mouthwash, there is actually more you can do for a healthy set of pearly whites. “Eat a balanced diet low on sugary drinks and snacks. And last but not least, visit your dental team twice a year for a cleaning, exam, and radiographs to ensure excellent oral hygiene and to prevent tooth decay and gum disease!” Dr. Dodge recommends.

Now that you know how long you should brush your teeth for, learn to spot the signs you need to see a dentist right away.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest