Bad Brushing? 6 Tips for Healthier Toothbrushing Techniques
The number one bad toothbrushing technique
Are you guilty of pressing down hard with the bristles of your toothbrush and simply sawing back and forth across the surfaces of all your teeth, one side at a time? Bad news is, this could be damaging your enamel and your gums. You may think, “Hey, I’m brushing, right?”, but in the long run, these incorrect techniques only make your teeth weaker and more susceptible to cavities.
Now is the time to change your routine. Let’s get you set up with some great tips for selecting the best toothbrush and toothpaste for you, plus the most recommended brushing technique, the Bass Technique.
The Bass Technique and Modified Bass Technique
The Bass/Modified Bass Technique of toothbrushing is the most widely used brushing technique and has been shown in studies to be the most effective way to brush your teeth.1
The Bass Technique, step by step
Hold the top of the bristles parallel to your teeth
Tilt the brush to a 45-degree angle
Angle the brush so the bristles are slightly under the gumline
With firm, yet gentle pressure, brush each tooth (or 2-3 at a time) in a circular or short back-and-forth motion 15 to 20 times before moving to the next area
Brush all teeth on the outer surface and then clean the inside of the teeth using the same motions
Hold the toothbrush in a vertical position behind your front teeth and brush up and down, using the bristles on the toe of the brush
Brush the top (chewing) surface of the molars and brush your tongue
Selecting the right toothbrush for you
Bristles: hard, medium, soft, or extra-soft?
Always select a brush/brush head with soft or extra-soft bristles. Hard, and even medium bristles are too stiff and can damage your teeth and gums. A well-constructed toothbrush with extra-soft bristles, combined with a good brushing technique (as well as flossing and water flossing), should be enough to keep your teeth clean and plaque-free.
Electric or manual?
Using a manual toothbrush is one possible option. However, we recommend you use an electric toothbrush as it provides a more effective solution for cleaning your teeth. Clinical trials have shown that the circular “oscillating” or vibrating “sonic” motion of electric toothbrushes can help do a more thorough job of cleaning your teeth and removing plaque.2 It would take you up to a year for you to manually match the number of brush strokes with an electric toothbrush in one brushing session!
In addition, many electric models have extra perks to help you with your brushing technique. One key element is a timer that shuts the brush off automatically after 2 minutes, the ADA recommended amount of time you should continually brush your teeth to effectively clean them. Some models beep or pulse to alert you to move to the next quadrant in your mouth. On average, most people brush their teeth for only about 45 seconds, so the perk of a timer can ensure you get the right amount of brush time.3
Other models of electric toothbrushes also include Bluetooth apps that record details from your brushing sessions. This data can tell you if you are brushing too hard, how much time you spend on each of the 4 quadrants, or if you’re not brushing long enough. Some even offer multiple brushing modes that include sensitivity settings as well as longer brushing timers.
When should you replace your toothbrush?
The ADA recommends replacing your toothbrush or toothbrush head every 2-3 months, or sooner, if you see the bristles are bent or becoming matted. This ensures that the bristles on your brush remain effective for brushing your teeth.
You should also consider proper storage of your toothbrush in the bathroom. An open container (like a hook or glass) next to your toilet, or even just on the top of your vanity may be convenient, but it is not the best place. Your toothbrush can pick up any bacteria floating through the air, and considering other activities going on in the bathroom, keeping your toothbrush inside a medicine cabinet or in a drawer in a case or with a cap is a better storage option.
There are also now many ultraviolet cleaning cases that can effectively kill most bacteria or organisms that find their way onto your brush in between toothbrushing sessions.4
What is the best toothpaste for me?
Many different factors and ingredients can affect your personal selection of toothpaste.
Be sure to check the label when choosing a toothpaste, as certain additives have recently been found to be unhealthy for your oral microbiome, and, therefore, your oral health. These include sodium laurel sulfate, saccharin, carrageenan, and more (check out our Guide to Oral Health for the full list of ingredients).
We recommend you talk with your dentist about using fluoride in your oral routine. There are currently a variety of fluoride-free products on the market. However, the ADA still does recommend fluoride to help reduce cavities.
Based on these guidelines, we recommend being mindful of fluoride products or use as directed by your dentist/physician, as negative health effects can be associated with excessive fluoride intake. However, switching to products with hydroxyapatite can be a suitable replacement.
Set yourself up with a consistent routine
Now that you have some great tips on finding the best toothbrush, toothpaste, and the most effective brushing technique for you, be sure to set up a regular oral hygiene routine for yourself:
Brush at least twice a day, or more if you feel you need to help remove food particles in your teeth after eating.
Be sure to wait to brush for at least 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods or beverages (this includes coffee). Or brush your teeth right after you wake in the morning.
Floss at least once a day, or more if needed.
Try water flossing if you like, as this is a great addition to your oral routine.
Check out a metal or plastic tongue scraper to remove excess bacteria from your tongue once a day.
1 Janakiram, C., Varghese, N., et al. (2020). [Comparison of tooth brushing techniques]. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry. PubMed Central.
2 Jain, Y. (2013). [Comparison of manual vs. electric toothbrushes for efficacy in plaque removal]. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry. PubMed Central.
3 Gallagher, A., Sowinski, J., et al. (2009). [Brushing time and dental plaque removal]. The Journal of Dental Hygiene. PubMed. Pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
4 Tomar, P., Hongal, S., et al. (2014). [Evaluation of sanitization of toothbrushes with various methods]. Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy. PubMed Central.