How Often Should you Brush your Teeth?

May 17, 2024  •  

This blog will focus on this very common question our patients ask us every day. The typical dentist’s answer is “after every time you eat,” but we understand that isn’t always a realistic expectation. Kids aren’t often able to sneak away to brush their teeth during school, and adults run into a similar situation in the workplace.

Instead of a blanket response, we emphasize establishing good long-term oral hygiene habits. Brushing multiple times and flossing (at least) once per day is the goal.

And yet the question remains–” How often should I brush my teeth?”

Since childhood, our parents continually remind us, sometimes not so gently, to brush our teeth before heading off to school. And then the same scene plays out before bed–I can still hear my Dad yelling from downstairs to make sure my sister and I brushed our teeth before bed. So is that the sweet spot for the number of times to brush your teeth, twice a day?

The American Dental Association states that brushing twice daily is the minimum–first thing in the morning and then again at night before you go to sleep. In our practice, we stress the benefit of at least one more brushing session in the middle of the day, perhaps when the kids get home from school and when adults get home from work.

So, is one’s oral hygiene simply dependent on the number of times the teeth are brushed? Absolutely not. We also show our patients the proper technique.

Should You Brush After Every Meal?

Ultimately, brushing our teeth after every meal is the recommended practice promoted by dental professionals (either dentists or dental hygienists). This is especially true if your latest meal involves sugary foods or drinks.

How Long Should You Brush Your Teeth?

The American Dental Association recommends brushing teeth for 2 minutes. This should provide ample time to clean every surface of the teeth in both the upper and lower jaws. Remember to take a moment to clean your tongue with your toothbrush! Cleaning your tongue helps prevent excessively bad breath.

Choosing The Right Toothbrush And Toothpaste

What defines a good toothbrush? There are manual and automatic brushes. Is one better than the other? Based on the research, there is little difference between an automatic and manual toothbrush, but that assumes the person using a manual toothbrush is doing a thorough job. Most people find an electric, or automatic, toothbrush provides a better clean feeling because it is easier to move it around the entire mouth. Our opinion remains the same–the type of toothbrush doesn’t matter as long as you can clean every surface of your teeth.

Regardless of whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, you must use one with either soft or medium bristles. Stay away from hard-bristled toothbrushes!

Now, what about toothpaste? Taking a walk through the drug store or grocery store aisles will reveal a huge number of different brands and formulations. The sheer number of choices can be daunting.

Our only requirement is to find a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is essential to building strong enamel, which in turn prevents cavity formation. Most toothpastes have a similar amount of fluoride, but some have a higher concentration. We recommend talking with your dentist before purchasing toothpaste with a higher-than-normal amount of fluoride.

As long as your toothpaste contains protective fluoride, our only other recommendation is to find a formulation that you can tolerate for a thorough 2-minute brushing session.

Using The Right Brushing Technique

The proper technique matters when brushing your teeth. When you brush, begin with the outer surfaces of your teeth. Take your time and gently brush both your upper and lower teeth. Going tooth by tooth can help you slow down and ensure you don’t miss any spots. Position your brush at a 45° angle and brush against the gumline to eliminate any trapped plaque or food debris using tooth-wide strokes, gently moving the brush back and forth. Also, don’t overlook the inner surface of your teeth. Even though they may not be as visible, these inner surfaces are just as susceptible to plaque buildup.

Pay special attention to the tops of your back teeth, where food can easily become trapped. Finally, brush your tongue to ensure fresher breath by removing odor-causing bacteria.


Flossing is another step to add to your daily oral hygiene routine for deep cleaning and heightening the benefits of brushing. Flossing your teeth will make sure you don’t miss any cracks and crevices of your teeth and help you clean out any food and other particles your brush couldn’t reach.

What Happens If I Do Not Brush Enough?

If you fail to brush your teeth daily and with the proper techniques, you expose yourself to poor oral health and potentially severe issues such as tooth decay and gum diseases.

What Happens If I Do Not Brush Enough?

Tooth Decay

When you don’t brush regularly, plaque builds up on your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth will use this plaque to create an acid on the surfaces of your teeth. Eventually, this acid will eat through the outer enamel of your tooth creating a painful cavity that will require a dental filling.

Gum Diseases

Poor oral hygiene will create an environment where bacteria can erode gum tissue around the teeth. Once the gum tissue becomes inflamed, the bone structures supporting the teeth will be attacked and start to dissolve. Eventually, this bone loss will create loose teeth that are at an increased risk of being lost.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Neglecting oral hygiene allows bacteria to accumulate in your mouth, leading to bad breath. These bacteria release sulfur compounds that can create an unpleasant odor.

Staining and Discoloration

Inadequate brushing can cause your teeth to become stained and discolored over time. Consuming coffee, tea, red wine, and smoking can worsen matters. Take the time to clean your teeth to prevent this staining.

Dental Plaque and Tartar Buildup

When you don’t brush enough, plaque can harden into tartar (calculus), which can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. Tartar buildup can contribute to gum disease and other dental problems.

Health Risks

There have been multiple research studies that have connected poor oral hygiene to serious medical conditions. Poor brushing can lead to an increased risk for diabetes, respiratory infections, and even cardiovascular disease.

Brushing Your Teeth- Maintaining Your Oral Hygiene That Starts At Home

Maintaining proper oral hygiene through regular brushing is not just a daily routine; it’s a practice and lifelong investment you’re putting into your overall health and well-being. By brushing your teeth at least twice a day (early in the morning and before bed) for two minutes each time, you can enjoy a beautiful smile and minimize serious dental and medical issues.

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Caring for New Permanent Teeth

Dr. Nathan Mellion Author

Written by Dr. Mellion

Dr Nathan Mellion, DDS, is a seasoned practitioner specializing in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics based in Uniontown, OH. With 15 years of professional experience, Dr. Mellion graduated from the College of Dentistry at Ohio State University in 2008. After their education, he completed a residency program at Saint Louis University’s Center for Advanced Dental Education. Dr. Nathan Mellion operates from Mellion Orthodontics, where he has garnered a remarkable average patient rating of 5.0/5 based on 8 reviews. His practice warmly welcomes new patients.


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