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Good dental hygiene begins with regularly brushing your teeth. Sticking to a daily routine of brushing and flossing helps contribute to a bright smile, fewer cavities, and better overall health.

Read on to learn more about when you should brush your teeth, how often, and tips for brushing properly.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day, in the morning and evening, with a soft-bristled brush.

For optimum dental health, the ADA suggests brushing your teeth for a minimum of 2 minutes each time, and to make sure you brush every tooth.

In addition to brushing, it’s important to also clean between your teeth once a day. You can use dental floss or another interdental cleaner like floss picks or a water flosser.

Cleaning or flossing between your teeth helps remove plaque and food particles that often get stuck under your gum line and between your teeth.

If you skip this step too often, bacteria can settle on your teeth or gum line, increasing your risk of cavities and other dental conditions.

Talk with your dentist about the type of floss or flossing system that’s right for you.

It’s also important that infants and young children practice good oral hygiene, starting at the earliest sign of a tooth peeking above the gum line.

As soon as you see an infant’s tooth breaking through, begin brushing it with a soft-bristled infant toothbrush. According to the ADA, you can use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice.

Children 3 to 6 years old can use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste on their toothbrush. You can help them brush their teeth twice a day (morning and night), for 2 minutes each time.

Since kids are prone to swallowing toothpaste, supervise their brushing sessions until they can spit while brushing.

Going to bed without brushing your teeth every once in a while is not likely to cause long-term issues.

However, if you regularly skip an evening or morning brushing, you could be increasing your risk of dental conditions and complications.

The most common problem that occurs from not brushing often enough is plaque buildup and cavities.

When you don’t brush your teeth regularly, food and bacteria build up on your teeth, which causes plaque, a slippery, fuzzy coating that sticks to your teeth.

The bacteria in plaque can wreak havoc on your teeth, causing your enamel to erode. Over time, this can cause cavities to form.

If the plaque continues to linger, you’re also at risk of developing gingivitis, a form of early gum disease. Gingivitis causes inflammation in your gums, making them painful and more likely to bleed.

When gingivitis gets worse, it can lead to periodontitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, periodontitis causes your gums to pull away from your teeth. This can result in bone loss and loose teeth that may fall out.

Poor dental hygiene is not just a problem for your mouth. It can also affect other aspects of your health.

In fact, if daily brushing, flossing, and routine visits to your dentist are low on your priority list, you may be putting yourself at an increased risk for heart disease.

Results from a large 2019 study found that having good oral hygiene may reduce your risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and heart failure.

Also, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, poor oral health in pregnant women has been associated with premature births and low birth weights.

Visiting your dentist every 6 months for routine cleanings and checkups can help boost your overall oral hygiene, and reduce your risk of developing other health conditions.

Knowing how to brush your teeth is just as important as how often you brush each day. To help maximize your oral health, follow these tips for brushing your teeth.

Use the proper brushing technique

To brush your teeth, place a soft-bristled brush at a 45-degree angle alongside your gums and move the brush back and forth using short strokes.

Use gentle pressure to avoid hurting or scratching your gums. Brush all sides, including the chewing surfaces of all your teeth. And finally, brush your tongue to remove bacteria.

Use the right type of toothbrush

Using an electric or manual toothbrush is a personal choice.

A 2014 research review showed that an electric toothbrush is more effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis than a standard brush.

But ultimately, it comes down to your dental hygiene habits and what you’re comfortable using.

The ADA recommends using a toothbrush that has soft bristles. This type of brush reduces the risk of gum abrasion.

Also, you may want to choose a toothbrush that has multi-level or angled bristles. According to a 2012 research review, these toothbrushes perform better at removing plaque than conventional flat-trimmed bristles.

Look for a toothbrush that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This indicates that the toothbrush is both safe and effective for removing plaque and reducing your risk of gingivitis.

Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or sooner if the brush shows excessive wear, such as the bristles fraying.

Use a fluoride toothpaste

The brand of toothpaste is not as important as the ingredients.

Make sure to use a fluoride toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means the product meets the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Floss at least once a day

Cleaning between your teeth at least once a day helps get rid of food and other particles that can get stuck under your gums and between your teeth. The easiest way to accomplish this is with dental floss.

Floss comes in waxed and unwaxed varieties, but according to the ADA, there is no difference in the effectiveness.

Your dentist may also recommend other interdental cleaners like:

  • floss picks
  • pre-threaded flossers
  • powered water flosser
  • tiny brushes that reach between your teeth
  • wooden plaque removers

Look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance before purchasing any of these products.

Brushing your teeth twice daily for 2 minutes each time can reduce your risk of cavities, gum disease, and other oral health conditions.

Following the guidelines set by the ADA for brushing technique, brush selection, toothpaste, and flossing can also contribute to good dental health.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to brush properly or when, make sure you talk with your dentist.