Key message: Brush twice a day with a manual or electric toothbrush.
The aim is to brush thoroughly to remove plaque biofilm from teeth and gums without doing any damage to tooth surfaces or gum tissues.
The best time to brush is just before bed and one other time every day. Remember it is important to floss (clean between your teeth) BEFORE brushing. This allows fluoride from your toothpaste to reach the clean surfaces between your teeth that you have just created by removing plaque. By keeping your teeth clean you will help reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Young children will need an adult to brush their teeth for them and it is recommended that children are supervised when tooth brushing until at least the age of 7. A general guide is when children can tie their shoe laces without help they can brush thoroughly. Children and young people between 6 and 16 undergo a lot of changes in their mouths and should be supervised and supported to ensure tooth brushing is effective.
Children may not be the only ones who may need help with brushing – lots of factors can make it difficult to clean teeth thoroughly and maintain good oral health. These factors can include having an injury e.g. a sprained wrist or an illness such as dementia.
Top tips for toothbrushing:
1. Choose a fluoride toothpaste
All children up to the age of three should use a toothpaste with at least 1000ppm fluoride, before bed and at another time of the day (most people choose when they get up in the morning). Use a smear of toothpaste. DO NOT let children lick or eat toothpaste from the tube.
Between the ages of 3-6 years, it is recommended that toothpaste contains MORE than 1000ppm fluoride.
Children over the age of 6 and adults should use toothpaste containing between 1350ppm and 1500ppm fluoride. Use a pea sized blob of toothpaste.
Fluoride strength is listed in the ingredients on the back of the toothpaste tube as ppm (parts per million). Click here for our TOOTHPASTE GUIDE.
2. Do not wet your toothbrush
Use a soft-medium toothbrush. There is no need to wet the toothbrush first – the mouth is already warm and moist. A hard toothbrush (especially if with an abrasive toothpaste) can wear tooth surfaces away and damage gums.
Spread the toothpaste around all tooth surfaces first (to ensure even coverage), then watch in a mirror while you brush to make sure that each surface of every tooth is cleaned thoroughly. Aim to place the bristles where the gum and tooth meet then brush in small circular motions (if using a manual toothbrush) with GENTLE pressure – you aren’t scrubbing the floor! Think wiggling bristles rather than scrubbing!
3. Electric v manual toothbrush
It is more important to focus on the quality of brushing rather than the brush you use. The aim is to clean both teeth and gums, without doing any harm to either.
There is, of course, a different technique for brushing with an electric toothbrush rather than a manual one. With an electric toothbrush, there is no need to move the brush back and forth or in a circular motion – simply hold it in place on the surface of the tooth and let the power of the toothbrush move the bristles and do the work.
Whatever you use, take the time to brush each surface of every tooth – outside, inside and biting surface. Click here to watch our demo video. Spend at least two minutes brushing at night time and one other time of the day. This equates to brushing each surface for approximately 1.5 seconds (the time it takes to count of five).
4. Spit out after brushing but don’t rinse
Do not rinse your mouth out with water after brushing. This leaves toothpaste on the teeth to get the maximum benefit from toothpaste ingredients e.g fluoride, desensitising etc.
AFTER brushing, rinse the toothbrush bristles under running water, nip the bristles together to help keep their shape, then store out of contact with other people’s toothbrushes.
Replace toothbrushes or electric toothbrush heads when the bristles start to splay out (approximately every 3 months).