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Home Dental Care and Prevention

Brushing |  Flossing 

Change Your Toothbrush and Stay Healthier!

It's not a pleasant thought. Your toothbrush—an item that you put in your mouth at least a couple of times a day—is like a convention center for thousands of microorganisms. Over 300 types of microbes thrive in your mouth, and consequently, on your toothbrush. Luckily, most of them are harmless—the sort that exist in a normal mouth. But many harmful bacteria can make the brush and handle of your toothbrush their home, including:

  • cold and flu bacteria
  • the herpes virus that causes painful cold sores
  • staphylococcus bacteria, responsible for many ear, nose and throat infections
  • candida, a parasitic fungus that causes thrush
  • bacteria than can cause periodontal (gum) infections, the leading cause of tooth loss among adults

    What's to be learned from this? You can avoid infecting yourself with bacteria, and prevent a lot of illnesses, with one simple act—changing your toothbrush at least every three months.

  • Proper tooth brushing involves four things:

    • a soft toothbrush
    • toothpaste with fluoride
    • the correct brushing angle
    • brushing in a pattern 

      It's important to brush at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush. The flexible bristles of a soft toothbrush are gentler on the gums and make it much easier to remove the plaque below the gum line, where periodontal disease starts.

      Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride hardens the outer enamel layer of the teeth. It might stop a cavity in its tracks and give you more resistance to future cavities.

      Angle the bristles of the brush along the gum line at a 45-degree angle. Apply firm but gentle pressure so the bristles slide under the gum line.

      Move the brush over the entire surface of two or three teeth at a time in small, circular motions. Allow some overlap as you move to the next teeth. Tilt the brush and use the tip to brush the backs of the front teeth.

      It's fine to brush in any regular pattern you choose, but since the insides of the teeth tend to get less attention, you might start with the insides of the upper teeth, then go to the insides of the lower teeth. Switch to the outsides of the upper teeth, and then the outsides of the lower teeth. Brush the chewing surfaces of the upper teeth, then the lower teeth. End by gently brushing your tongue and the roof of your mouth. This removes germs to help keep your breath fresh.


      Most cavities and periodontal disease begin between the teeth. While brushing is important, the bristles of your brush simply don't reach between teeth. To keep your gums and teeth healthy, you must remove the plaque between your teeth at least once a day. That's why your dentist recommends dental floss.

      Don't worry about the type of floss. They all work pretty much the same. Wind about 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving about 5 inches between your hands. Pinch the floss between your thumbs and index fingers and leave about one inch in between to work with.

      Gently guide the floss down between the teeth using a side-to-side motion. If your teeth are too tight to floss, or if it catches or tears, let your dentist know about it. These are problems that need to be fixed.