how to brush teeth properly

Do you or your kids still get cavities or other dental problems, even though you brush your teeth every day?

Regular teeth brushing is one of the best ways to keep plaque and tooth decay at bay, but you need to make sure you're brushing your teeth the right way.

Good brushing includes everything from your choice of toothbrush and toothpaste to how often you brush and your brushing technique.

Read this short guide to find out how to improve your daily brushing routine and lower your oral health risks.

Why do I need to brush my teeth?

Tooth decay and cavities

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in Australia. It affects people of all ages, but children are especially vulnerable, as their teeth are smaller and can be damaged more easily.

Tooth decay happens when bacteria builds up on the teeth in a sticky layer called plaque. When you consume sugar and starch, this feeds the bacteria which release acids that gradually wear down tooth surfaces.

Over time, this can lead to cavities or infections that may need a dental treatment such as a filling or root canal to correct. Regular teeth brushing helps to reduce plaque build-up.

Gum disease

If dental plaque reaches the gum line, this can cause the gums to become irritated and swollen, leading to gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease.

If gingivitis isn't treated, it can develop into periodontitis, which is a major cause of tooth loss.

When to brush your teeth

How many times a day should I brush?

Most people should brush their teeth twice a day, ideally once in the morning before breakfast and once at night before going to bed.

Your dentist will advise you if you or your kids could benefit from brushing more often.

How long should I brush for?

Dentists recommend that you brush for at least 2 minutes, spending around 30 seconds in each corner of your mouth. This helps to make sure that all surfaces of your teeth are thoroughly cleaned.

Don't brush straight after meals

When you eat or drink, this can deposit acids on your teeth that softens the hard enamel surface. If you brush too hard while the teeth are weakened, this could cause permanent damage.

You should wait at least an hour before brushing, rinsing your mouth with plain water in the meantime.

What's the best type of toothbrush to use?

Electric or manual?

Studies have shown that both electric and standard toothbrushes are equally effective at removing plaque from teeth, but some people find an electric toothbrush easier to use.

Your dentist might recommend an electric brush if you or your child find it difficult to clean your teeth manually.

Hard or soft bristles?

Toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads are available with firm, medium or soft bristles. Medium or soft bristles are recommended for most people.

Firm bristles should be avoided, as these are more likely to damage the teeth. If you have sensitive teeth or gums, your dentist will recommend using a soft-bristled brush.

How often should I replace my toothbrush?

You should replace your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head after three months of use, or following an illness.

What's the best type of toothpaste?

Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride. This naturally occurring mineral helps to strengthen teeth enamel, providing a barrier against plaque.

If you have sensitive teeth or other special requirements, your dentist may suggest a toothpaste product that could help.

Children's toothpaste

Multiple studies have proven that fluoride is safe for health, but young children who have too much fluoride may develop a condition called fluorosis that stains their teeth.

For this reason, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents of very young children only use water when brushing their teeth, up to 18 months. Low-fluoride children's toothpaste should be used up to the age of 6.

What's the right way to brush teeth?

To brush your teeth properly, you need to make sure you're cleaning as much of the surface area as possible to remove plaque and leftover food. To do this:

  • Squeeze a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto the brush.
  • Starting in one corner of your mouth, place the toothbrush in front of your teeth and angle the bristles at 45 degrees relative to your gum.
  • Brush in circular motions along the front, back and chewing surfaces of every tooth. Do this for 2 minutes to make sure you're cleaning thoroughly.
  • Finally, use the reverse side of your toothbrush to gently scrape your tongue from the back to the front.
  • Don't rinse your mouth after brushing. Let the fluoride do its job and protect your teeth for longer.

Brushing children's teeth

Kids need help brushing their teeth until they have the coordination to move the toothbrush properly by themselves – usually by the time they can tie their own shoelaces.

Make sure your children know not to swallow toothpaste.

Do I also need to floss?

Even when you brush your teeth correctly, you're only cleaning three surfaces of your teeth. To clean the other two surfaces – the spaces between the teeth – you'll need to use floss or an interdental brush.

Flossing should be done at least once a day to remove trapped food and plaque from the places your toothbrush can't reach.

How to floss

  • Cut a length of around 45cm of floss and wrap it around your middle fingers.
  • Hold a length of floss between your thumbs and index fingers on both hands and guide it in between your teeth.
  • Gently scrape the tooth from side to side, starting from the gum line to the crown.
  • Use a new length of floss for each tooth and continue until you've cleaned between all of your teeth.

How else can I look after my teeth?

As well as brushing and flossing, a good oral hygiene routine involves:

  • Following a balanced diet and cutting down on sugar and acids that can damage teeth
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  • Not smoking or drinking excessive alcohol, as this increases oral health risks
  • Visiting your dentist for a regular check-up and clean

Do you need a dentist in Noosa?

Whether it's time for your family's check-up or you need some dental care advice, our dentists in Noosa are here to help.

Call us now on (07) 5447 1361 to make an appointment at Tewantin Dental Centre or book online.


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Healthdirect. Dental care tips [Online] 2017 [Accessed December 2019] Available from:

Better Health Channel. Teeth and mouth care [Online] 2019 [Accessed December 2019] Available from: