You’ve been doing it since you were a kid. (Hopefully.) But…are you doing it right? Let’s talk. First of all, why are you brushing? Obviously to get rid of the build up, but it’s a little more involved. Once you know the why, the how will make more sense.

Yes, we want to get rid of build up but also bacteria, lots of it: the kind that causes bad breath, the kind that causes cavities, and the kind that causes gum disease. And these bacteria live everywhere: on your teeth, gums, tongue, the roof of your mouth, and even under your tongue.

Let’s start with the bacteria that causes cavities. That bacteria releases acid that eats away at the enamel of your teeth in the presence of sugar. Your enamel becomes soft, which is how a cavity starts. Your diet, which may also include food or beverages that are acidic, are furthering this bacteria’s cause because they lower the pH in your mouth. When the pH is low in your mouth, that means it’s an acidic environment, and now we know what happens when your teeth are bathed in such an environment- they are cavity prone. So when you brush, you are using toothpaste to clean the plaque off, increase the pH in your mouth, and remove the bacteria.

Let’s move on to bacteria that causes gum disease and inflammation in your gums. In the presence of inflammation, your gums become angry and present as swollen or puffy, red instead of pink, and they bleed. When you floss your teeth and you notice blood, if you are healthy systemically then your gums are inflamed.

Take a full 2 minutes at least to brush your teeth with a soft to medium soft tooth brush, and be like Goldilocks- use a medium pressure that’s soft enough so you’re not wearing your enamel away (yes, you can wear your enamel away if you scrub too hard) but not so soft that you’re not removing the build up. Apply medium pressure in circular motions on the back, front and chewing surfaces of your teeth. Then, angle the toothbrush into the gum line, gently massaging your gums to remove bacteria and buildup that’s adhering to the gum line. Sometimes it’s hard to reach in the back, so take extra care to maneuver your brush back there, and ensure the area where your tooth meets your gums is extra squeaky clean.

Now, take your toothbrush and place it all the way up on the gums. Swipe the bristles of your toothbrush across the gums from back to front in all quadrants, and then swipe underneath your tongue on both sides. Next, brush your tongue in a scrubbing motion to release the food debris and bacteria that’s nestled around the taste buds. Use that same scrubbing motion on the roof of your mouth. Bet you never thought to brush that before!

The key is that when you brush your whole mouth, you remove all different kinds of bacteria that’s trapped on all the different surfaces and crevices in your mouth. Once you do this, you will feel so good, you’ll wonder how you never did it before. Happy brushing!