When and how often should you brush your teeth?

Answer From Thomas J. Salinas, D.D.S.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each time.

When you brush your teeth, you help remove food and plaque — a sticky white film that forms on your teeth and contains bacteria. After you eat a meal or snack that contains sugar, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel.

Eventually, the acid can break down tooth enamel, causing cavities. Plaque that isn't removed can also harden into tartar, making it harder to keep teeth clean. Tartar buildup on your gums leads to inflammation that causes gum disease.

In choosing when to brush your teeth, you might also consider your diet. If you've eaten an acidic food or drink, avoid brushing your teeth right away. These acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can remove enamel.

If you have arthritis or have difficulty holding a toothbrush, consider buying an electric or battery-operated toothbrush. These have been shown to remove plaque better than manual toothbrushes.

Besides brushing your teeth, to keep your mouth healthy, do the following:

  • Floss daily.
  • Use mouthwash after brushing and flossing.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary food and drinks.
  • Avoid frequent snacking.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are irregular or splayed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups with X-rays and cleanings.
June 05, 2019