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Oral Health FAQ: How Long Should I Brush?

By HERWriter
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tooth brushing FAQs answered Auremar/PhotoSpin

What is proper oral hygiene?

Proper oral hygiene care includes both brushing and flossing. These two acts together help clear away food particles that can turn into plaque and harden into calculus (tartar). If plaque is not cleaned away, it can result in infection and, eventually, periodontal disease. Mouth bacteria has also been linked to lung infections in certain adults, and pre-term, low birth weight babies.

When should I brush?

Brushing is more than just using a toothbrush and toothpaste. Proper oral hygiene includes how long you brush with proper brushing techniques.

The Canadian Dental Association says that you should brush your teeth after every meal “because the bacterial attack on teeth begins minutes after eating.” If you can’t brush after every meal, you should, at the very least, brush once a day and it’s best before bedtime.

How long should I brush?

Proper brushing should take at least two and, ideally, up to three minutes. Most adults don’t come close to that. Most electric toothbrushes come with timers that will tell you when your two minutes is up. If you don’t have one, try using a stop watch or watching the clock when you brush.

How should I brush my teeth?

It’s not only how long you brush that’s important, but how you brush, too.

Toothbrushing Tip #1
Pick a toothbrush that is soft with rounded bristles, and which allows you to reach your back teeth.

Toothbrushing Tip #2
Your toothbrush should be at a 45-degree angle and aimed where the teeth and gums meet.

Toothbrushing Tip #3
Use a gentle, circular motion. Brushing too hard can result in receding gums over time.

Toothbrushing Tip #4
Remember to clean the backs of your teeth, as well as the inside of your cheeks and your tongue where bacteria can also lurk. Short back-and-forth strokes are best in these areas.

Toothbrushing Tip #5
Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if your bristles begin to “splay” or spread out. Older toothbrushes don’t clean your teeth as well and can be sources of bacteria.


1) Brushing and Flossing. Health Canada. Web. July 8, 2013.

2) Brushing. Canadian Dental Association. Web. July 8, 2013.

3) How to Brush. Colgate. Web. July 8, 2013.

Reviewed July 8, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments


Great job. Dental education is so important to not only our oral health but also our systemic health.

July 9, 2013 - 10:10am
HERWriter (reply to Marielaina Perrone DDS)

Thanks, Marielaina. I've done articles on systemic health and oral hygiene in the past. Didn't have room for it in this one.

July 9, 2013 - 1:49pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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