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  • Anderson Family Dental

Brushing Technique for Great Gum Health

Brushing our teeth is one of those basic skills we all learn as children. Once in the morning, once before bed, and maybe even throw some floss in every once in a while. (Okay, we can get into that later.)

Red toothbrush

As much as you may think you’re doing a great job with your oral home care basics, a toothbrush is a surprisingly technique sensitive instrument. Many people go their whole lives without really knowing how to use one of the most ubiquitous tools in their self-care arsenal. 

However, here at Anderson Family Dental, we believe good patient education is the key to great oral health. So here are the top five ways you can really get the most out of your twice-daily brushing.


Choosing the right brush is the first step in effective brushing. While we highly recommend going electric, a manual toothbrush in the right hands can be just as effective. As long as it has soft, or even extra-soft, bristles.

Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes are too rough on the thin tissue of your gums, and can actually damage your enamel as well. While it won’t show right away, toothbrush abrasion is a problem many people develop over time from using hard brushes and abrasive toothpaste. 

Also, the “hardness” of a bristle actually has more to do with how thick the diameter of each bristle is. Thinner bristles will get into those nooks and crannies much more effectively, and conform to those contours to make sure nothing gets missed. So the softer the brush, the more effective it will be and the less damage it could do to your gums!


In dentistry, we like to divide the mouth into quadrants. That is, upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left. For many people, quadrant brushing is a great way to ensure you’re not skipping any spots, and that you’re taking enough time in each area. Or, if you prefer, you could do outside surfaces up top, then inside surfaces, then outside and inside on the bottom. Whatever works for you!

The key is to aim for thirty seconds per area, which is an easy way to make sure you do that full two minutes. Have you ever timed yourself brushing? Most of us feel like we are taking enough time, but really it ends up being only about 45 seconds. Not nearly enough to clean every surface!


Just like taking a great selfie, angles make all the difference. Plaque tends to form along the gumline, in that crevice where your gums meet your teeth. To make sure those bristles (which are nice and thin, since you got a soft toothbrush, right?) get into the edge of the gums and really do their best work, try to hold your brush at a 45 degree angle toward the gumline, both on the cheek side and the tongue side.

For chewing surfaces on those back teeth, point the bristles straight down into those little grooves. For the narrow areas on the tongue side of your front teeth, it may help to orient the toothbrush vertically. Especially if you have crowding, those narrow areas in the front can really be tricky. Vertical brushing there can help. getting your teeth straightened can help make them more cleansable by eliminating those tricky spots.


While long, scrubbing strokes might feel like you’re putting in the elbow grease to get things clean, remember you’re not scrubbing grout! Short, gentle strokes work best, almost like you’re polishing one or two teeth at a time. 

If you really want the gold star, after a few jiggles in one spot, which will stir up bacteria and food debris, use your toothbrush to scoop that debris down and away from your gums (an upward stroke on the bottom teeth). Just one or two vertical strokes pulling bacteria away from the gums really makes a difference. Then move to the next couple of teeth!


While it may be tempting to keep using your toothbrush for as long as possible and really get your money’s worth out of it, don’t. Your brush really should be changed every three months. For one thing, microbes can build up in the brush over time. 

More importantly, the bristles lose their efficacy the longer you use them. Their tips get distorted, and the bristles may start to flare or bend, meaning they’re not doing their best work anymore and could start to hurt your gums.

Also, if you notice that your toothbrush bristles start to curl outward after a few weeks or months of use, you need to ease up on your pressure. A lot! Brushing should be done with gentle pressure and should not distort your bristles. Follow future blogs for more about how overbrushing can harm your enamel and gums. In the meantime, keep up the great home care and we’ll see you for your next check-up!


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