On this page

Better teeth brushing

Woman brushing her teeth in mirror
On this page

Keeping your teeth clean is important – that much we all know. Brushing and flossing removes plaque and keeps our gums and teeth healthy, preventing gum disease, decay and infection.

If you’re not convinced that you’re getting your teeth as clean as they could be, read on. We’ve put together a simple guide to dental care that will have your smile sparkling in no time.

How to brush your teeth

What to use

According to the NHS, it doesn’t matter whether you brush with a manual or electric toothbrush, as long as you’re getting your teeth clean. Some people simply find it easier to get a thorough clean with an electric toothbrush – particularly if it has an oscillating or rotating head – but this may not be the case for you.

The NHS recommends replacing your toothbrush (or toothbrush head) every one to three months.

When it comes to fluoride toothpaste you’ll need to make sure that you’re using a product that contains at least 1,350 parts per million fluoride. Children under three who don’t have tooth decay can use a lower strength toothpaste (at least 1,000ppm fluoride).

Dental floss is another important oral health product to stock up on. If you find it hard to use, you can try dental tape, which is thicker. You might also benefit from interdental brushes – these are small brushes of varying sizes that can be used instead of dental floss to clean between the teeth. They can be particularly useful if you have large gaps between your teeth.

Lastly, you may want to use mouthwash, although this isn’t essential. Mouthwashes containing fluoride can help prevent tooth decay, while mouthwashes containing the antiseptic chlorhexidine can help with gingivitis.

Flossing – How to floss your teeth

The NHS advises using interdental brushes or dental floss to clean between your teeth. You should do this:

  • Once a day
  • Before brushing your teeth
  • For your whole mouth, making sure each tooth is cleaned

If you’re using interdental brushes, make sure you select a size of brush that fits the gaps in your teeth – you might need to use more than one size. When you insert the brush between your teeth, do so gently – if you feel resistance, try a smaller brush.

If you’re using dental floss, the process can be a bit trickier to perfect. The NHS recommends the following:

  1. Break off a length of floss (about 45 cm) and wind it around one finger on each hand
  2. Hold the floss tightly so that there’s about 2.5cm (one inch) between your hands
  3. Gently work the floss between two teeth until it reaches the gum line
  4. Pull the floss against the side of one tooth and gently scrape it, away from the gum
  5. Repeat this on the other side for the next tooth
  6. Continue throughout your whole mouth, using fresh sections of floss as you go and making sure you floss the edges of your back teeth

Brushing – How to brush your teeth

To clean your teeth properly, you’ll need to

  • Brush the inside, outside and chewing surfaces of all your teeth
  • Avoid pushing too hard with your toothbrush
  • Brush for a total of two minutes – electric toothbrushes often have timers to let you know when you’ve reached this

When you’re finished, spit out excess toothpaste but don’t rinse your mouth – you want to leave fluoride on your teeth.

If you have children, you’ll need to help them brush their teeth until they’re at least seven years old:

  • You should start brushing your child’s teeth at around six months
  • Your children’s teeth need to be brushed twice a day for about two minutes with fluoride toothpaste
  • Children aged three and under only need a smear of toothpaste and can have a lower fluoride toothpaste (at least 1,000ppm fluoride)
  • Children aged between three and six need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride

Once your child is around seven, they should be able to brush their teeth themselves, but they’ll probably still need supervision. Make sure they brush twice a day, including last thing at night before going to bed.

You can help your child with their toothbrushing by guiding their hand and having them brush in front of a mirror.

Mouthwash – When to use mouthwash

If you’re going to use mouthwash, remember the following:

  • Don’t use mouthwash directly after brushing your teeth as this will wash away the fluoride from the toothpaste
  • Avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after using fluoride mouthwash

If you’ve been advised by your dentist to use an antiseptic mouthwash containing chlorhexidine, be aware that this substance can cause tooth staining. If it becomes very visible, you can visit your dental hygienist to have removed.

Why brushing your teeth is so important

Keeping your teeth clean and free of plaque is really important. Proper brushing prevents against tooth decay and gum disease, which can cause pain, swelling, bleeding and tooth loss. It also keeps your teeth looking their best and ensures fresh breath!