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This awesome post was written by Dr. Kimberley Dyoco, an avid dental health blogger who enjoys sharing her expertise and knowledge on a variety of publications. Check out her website, Facebook and Twitter!

Everyone knows how to brush and floss correctly, right? I mean, you’ve been doing it every day for nearly your entire life so obviously you know how.

Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the fact is there’s a pretty good chance you’re actually not brushing and flossing properly.

It might be because you never learned the right way or just because you’ve formed less than stellar habits over the years, but whatever the reason, your incorrect oral hygiene routines could very well be damaging your teeth and gums.

So, it’s back to dental health school for you!

Brushing

Wrong Way

Using a hard-bristled brush and a lot of force.

Right Way

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When it comes to brushing technique, the less-is-more approach is the way to go. When you want to clean something well, you usually think that elbow grease is the most important component, but this does not apply to brushing your teeth. A soft-bristled brush and a fairly gentle touch is sufficient. Though teeth are pretty tough, they are coated with protective enamel that can be worn away with hard bristles and forceful brushing.

Wrong Way

Using large side-to-side strokes

Right Way

Using big back and forth motions across one whole side of your mouth is the way we often see people brushing their teeth.  However, it’s far more effective to place your toothbrush in one place and just jiggle the brush back and forth to get in between teeth and gums. Then, shift the brush over to the next section until all teeth have been covered.

Wrong Way

Brushing for less than 2 minutes.

Right Way

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You really need a full 120 seconds to get your teeth truly clean. Next time you brush, start a stopwatch on your phone but don’t look at it as you go about brushing as you normally do. You may be surprised to see that you’re only brushing for a minute or less. Doing a thorough job is very important when you brush, so get in the habit of setting a timer to ensure that you don’t cut it short.

Wrong Way

Brushing right after you eat.

Right Way 

If you think you’re an oral hygiene superstar because you brush before you’ve even digested, you’re mistaken. In fact, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes after eating before you brush because your teeth may be in a slightly weakened state if they’ve been exposed to acidic foods or drinks.  

Wrong Way

Using whitening toothpaste every time you brush.

Right Way

In the pursuit of a dazzling white smile, you may always reach for the whitening toothpaste. But as this type of toothpaste is generally more abrasive, you should alternate with a gentler product.

Flossing

Wrong Way

Substituting a water pick for string floss.

Right Way

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In a perfect world, shooting a stream of water between your teeth would be just as effective as flossing… but it’s not. It’s a great thing to add to your dental hygiene routine, but it doesn’t replace traditional floss in terms of cleaning the plaque and debris from between teeth.

Wrong Way

Flossing straight down between teeth.

Right Way  

Many people take a piece of floss and just go straight up and down between their teeth and call it a day. Unfortunately, this is not the right way at all. Remember that the point of flossing is to remove the bacteria on your teeth that forms plaque, so the floss has to move up and down along the tooth, not just between the gums. And if you put the floss too forcefully straight down between your teeth, you could be harming your gums as well.

Wrong Way 

Wrapping the floss around your index fingers.

Right Way

It isn’t necessarily wrong to put the floss on your index fingers, but it makes it much harder to do a good job of flossing. Try instead to wrap floss around your two middle fingers so that you can use your thumb and index fingers to better manipulate and move the floss as you go.

Wrong Way

Holding the floss too tautly.

Right Way

Floss should not be held completely straight and taut the whole time you’re flossing. After gently lowering a piece of floss between your teeth, you should bend it to form a c-shape around the tooth and move it up and down to scrape the plaque away from the side of the tooth. Then, bend it the other way and follow the same process to clean the tooth on the other side of the gap.  

Simply going through the motions of your dental hygiene routine is not enough to maintain your oral health. Be sure that the time you spend brushing and flossing is helping you keep your smile as healthy and beautiful as can be.

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