You brush every day, twice a day, and floss every night. You try to avoid sugary snacks and you haven’t had a carbonated soft drink in years. You see your dentist for regular visits and cleanings every six to 12 months. But there might be more you could be doing to keep your teeth looking young and keeping them healthy.
If you’re making any of these seven common dental mistakes, making a few changes could improve the health of your mouth and teeth.
1. Not brushing long enough
Most people brush their teeth every day. But most people don’t brush long enough. Dentists recommend brushing for at least two minutes. But there’s good news. Today’s electric toothbrushes often have built-in timers to signal when you are done.
2. Choosing the wrong toothbrush
You may think that a good, stiff toothbrush will help remove plaque and tartar build up better. But, in fact, a hard-bristled brush can hurt your gums. Choose a soft brush, according to the American Dental Association, to make brushing more comfortable so that you are more likely to do it more often.
3. Brushing too long or too often
Brushing too long can actually allow plaque to build up on your teeth. Stick to two minutes – no more, no less. Think of your mouth in terms of four quadrants (upper right, lower right, upper left, lower left) and spend 30 seconds on each.
To ensure you hit each area every time you brush, rotate the spot you begin. And don’t forget to spend a few seconds on your tongue, where bacteria can thrive.
Additionally, brushing your teeth more than three times per day can actually wear down your tooth enamel or damage your gums. Scrubbing hard isn’t necessary. Remove plaque with a light touch.
4. Brushing immediately after eating acidic foods
After a plate of mom’s Italian spaghetti and meatballs with her classic garlic-laden sauce, you may be tempted to brush your teeth immediately, especially since you know acidic foods, like that tomato sauce, aren’t good for your teeth.
But if you run to the sink right away, you’ll actually be spreading the acid around in your mouth and wearing down the enamel. Instead, wait at least a half hour after consuming acidic foods to brush your teeth. The same goes for acidic beverages like orange juice. Not only does brushing your teeth after drinking OJ taste terrible, it’s bad for your teeth.
5. Using whitening tooth pastes
Whitening tooth pastes can sand away tooth enamel over time. If you like the look of your bright, white teeth, then cut back on drinks like red wine and coffee, and ask your dentist about safe, long-lasting whitening procedures. If you insist on using a whitening toothpaste, switch between that and a regular fluoride toothpaste every few weeks.
6. Not flossing every tooth
Flossing is tedious, let’s face it. When it’s late at night, there’s a great temptation to skip a few teeth in the back. After all, no one will notice if you have some kale stuck back there, right?
Make sure to floss every tooth in the same pattern every night so you don’t miss a few. It’s amazing how fast plaque can build up between teeth.
7. Not switching out your dental floss when you move between teeth
When you think about this one, you’ll say, “ewww,” even though many people do it. If you’re using the same piece of dental floss on all your teeth (or even several), you are simply picking up the plaque and moving it to another tooth. Those portable handheld flossing sticks are even worse if you use only one to floss your entire mouth. Change to a new section of floss with every tooth for a truly clean and effective flossing experience.