When and how often should you brush your teeth?
Answer From Cindy Zhou, D.M.D., M.S.
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes each time you brush. This recommendation is from the American Dental Association.
When you brush, you help take food and plaque off your teeth. Plaque is a sticky white film that forms on teeth. Plaque has bacteria in it. After you eat a meal or snack that has sugar, the bacteria in plaque make acids that attack tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard outer coating that covers your teeth.
Over time, the acid breaks down tooth enamel. That can lead to cavities. And plaque that stays on teeth hardens into tartar. When there's tartar on your teeth, it's harder to keep them clean. Tartar buildup on the gums also leads to inflammation that causes gum disease.
To protect your teeth, don't brush them right after having food or drinks that contain a lot of acids. Examples include soft drinks, such as soda and sports drinks, sour candies, citrus juices and citrus fruits. The acid in them can soften the enamel. Brushing too soon after you eat or drink something acidic can take the enamel off your teeth. Wait an hour to brush. During that time, your saliva washes away the acid and the enamel hardens again.
If you have arthritis, if you have a hard time holding a toothbrush or if you have braces, try an electric or battery-operated toothbrush. Those toothbrushes may be easier to use.
Along with brushing your teeth twice a day, follow these steps to help keep your mouth healthy:
- Floss once a day.
- Drink plenty of water. If there's fluoride in your community's tap water, drinking it may help lower the risk of cavities.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary food and drinks.
- Use mouthwash after brushing and flossing.
- Get a new toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. Replace it sooner if the bristles become worn down, bent or broken.
- Don't smoke or use other tobacco products.
- See a dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.
Cindy Zhou, D.M.D., M.S.
July 27, 2023
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See more Expert Answers
- Home oral care. American Dental Association. https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/home-care. Accessed June 29, 2023.
- Taking care of your teeth and mouth. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/taking-care-your-teeth-and-mouth. Accessed June 29, 2023.
- Eat right for a healthy mouth and teeth. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/healthy-nutrition-for-healthy-teeth. Accessed June 29, 2023.
- Wilder RS, et al. Overview of gingivitis and periodontitis in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 29, 2023.
- Erosion: What you eat and drink can impact teeth. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/all-topics-a-z/dietary-acids-and-your-teeth. Accessed June 30, 2023.
- Toothbrushes. American Dental Association. https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes. Accessed June 29, 2023.