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Brushing Your Teeth: How Often and When?

Brushing Your Teeth: How Often and When?

Ali Fadakar -

Good dental hygiene is about more than checking in with your dentist twice per year and letting them work on your teeth; it’s also about brushing regularly – twice per day, in fact!

The truth is that how often and when you brush your teeth can affect so much more than whether your dentist wags their finger at you during your next appointment. 

Your tooth brushing habits can affect:

  • How white your smile is
  • How often or even if you get cavities
  • Your likelihood for gum disease

Not sure if your tooth brushing routine is up to snuff? Let’s take a closer look at the optimal time and frequency for toothbrushing so you can make sure that your brushing habits are optimal.

How Many Times Should I Brush My Teeth Each Day?

Twice per day, plain and simple

In fact, the American Dental Association specifically recommends brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice per day in two-minute sessions. But why is this the recommended strategy?

It all boils down to limiting the amount of time your teeth are exposed to food and bacteria. By brushing twice per day, your teeth don’t have food or excessive bacteria in between or on their surfaces for more than a couple of hours at a time. That makes it really difficult for bacteria to grow enough to create cavities.

You see, when you eat food, bacteria on the surface of your teeth can latch onto the food particles and break them down, reproducing over time. Plaque forms as a sticky white film on your teeth, containing additional bacteria. As the bacteria eat the food particles on your teeth, they produce a waste acid that can break down tooth enamel.

Limit the bacteria on your teeth, and you limit the acid. Limit the acid, and you protect the enamel of your teeth

While you can brush your teeth three times per day (once after every major meal), this isn’t strictly necessary. It takes bacteria a good chunk of time to do any real damage to your teeth. The few hours between lunch and when you brush your teeth in the evening isn’t normally enough to cause problems.

That said, stick to the two-minute rule when you do brush. Brushing for two minutes ensures that you scrub away all the bacteria and plaque that might have built up since your last brushing session.

Many of the best electric toothbrushes have automatic two-minute timers, so you don't even have to count in your head.

For example, Supersmile’s Zina 45 Sonic Pulse Toothbrush – the Tesla of toothbrushes – includes a two minute timer and a patented 45° brush head that works with four unique cleaning modes. This ergonomic and effective toothbrush can help you brush your teeth like never before.

What is the Best Time to Brush Your Teeth?

That depends on your schedule, although most people find it convenient to brush their teeth after breakfast and after dinner.

There are good reasons for both of these times. Brushing your teeth after breakfast means you don’t mess with the flavor of the meal. Trust us, you don’t want to drink a glass of breakfast orange juice immediately after scrubbing fluoride toothpaste over your teeth.

But brushing your teeth after breakfast also means you get rid of food and bacteria from the night before (odds are your mouth was open for plenty of that time). Your teeth will be squeaky clean all the way until lunch. Add to that the fact that it's just convenient for lots of people to brush their teeth in the morning when they're already doing their bathroom routines before work or school, and you can see why this setup is so popular.

Brushing your teeth after dinner in the evening is similarly convenient -- your meal without the taste of toothpaste in your mouth, and maybe even a little dessert after the main course. Then you can brush your teeth shortly afterward, getting rid of sugar from that dessert, along with any other remaining food particles, to deprive bacteria of food they need to survive.

When you go to sleep, it’s with totally clean teeth and fresh breath. That way, bacteria don’t have 8+ hours to break down your teeth’s enamel.

But what if this schedule doesn’t work for you? If that’s the case, try to find two times in the day where you can brush your teeth and give your teeth several hours in between meals. No matter what, it’s strongly recommended that one of your times be before bed. This limits the tooth decay you might get as you sleep.

Is Brushing Your Teeth Four Times a Day Too Much?

Even though many dentists would likely applaud your dedication, you actually shouldn’t brush your teeth four times per day. In fact, brushing your teeth more than three times per day (once after every major meal) can harm your teeth rather than make them healthier.

While enamel is pretty tough by itself, it’s not invincible. Given enough time, enamel can wear down. The bad news is that enamel can’t be replaced – once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Basically, by brushing your teeth four or more times a day, you accidentally end up doing bacteria’s job and wear down your enamel with over brushing.

Furthermore, brushing too frequently can lead to gum irritation. You should brush along the edges of your gums whenever you use a toothbrush, but brushing too frequently can lead to gum disease or just plain sensitivity.

Bottom line: while some extra brushing seshes once in a while won’t do any harm, don’t go overboard with your brushing on the regular or you’ll ironically make your teeth more susceptible to cavities and other dental problems. 

Is It OK to Brush Your Teeth Once a Day?

Technically, yes. It takes about 24 hours for plaque and bacteria to build up enough for tooth decay to kick in. So if you brush your teeth at least once per day, and if you do so with proper technique, you can theoretically disrupt bacteria and clear away enough plaque to prevent tooth decay and other dental issues.

However, most dentists still recommend that you should brush your teeth twice per day at a minimum. It's simply a matter of minimizing the likelihood of cavities.

If you brush once per day, that brushing session has to be perfect and you have to guarantee that you clear away all the bacteria and plaque forming on your teeth’s surface. Brushing twice per day gives you a little more wiggle room – if you miss a spot in between two of your back molars, for instance, the second brushing session might clear that plaque away.

Given that brushing your teeth only takes two minutes maximum, there’s no reason to really limit your toothbrushing to once per day unless you’re on a very tight schedule.

What Are the Benefits of Brushing Your Teeth?

Every time you go to the dentist’s office, they repeat the same mantra: brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth, (and floss)! But why is it such a big deal?

Ultimately, it’s because brushing your teeth is the most helpful habit you can maintain for your dental health. 

Prevents Cavities 

For starters, brushing your teeth directly prevents cavities by scraping away bacteria and plaque. Getting rid of bacteria and plaque makes cavity formation impossible.

Even if you don’t get rid of all the bacteria in your mouth (which is almost impossible, as well), brushing your teeth gets rid of the sugar or other food particles that the bacteria can use to reproduce. No bacteria reproduction means no acid wearing down your teeth’s enamel over time.

Prevents Gum Disease

Brushing your teeth isn’t just good for your teeth themselves. It can also prevent gum disease.

Gum disease can occur if bacteria infect the tissue of your gums. In a lot of cases, the bacteria responsible for gum disease start on the surfaces of your teeth.

Again, getting rid of all these bacteria can go a long way toward minimizing the likelihood of future dental problems. Gum disease is super uncomfortable, leading to irritation and inflammation, and can even lead to other tooth problems, like root infections.

Freshens Breath 

Let’s face it – nothing kills the mood or ruins a conversation quicker than bad breath. Do yourself and anyone you talk to a favor and brush your teeth so you have fresh breath.

When you brush your teeth, you get rid of bacteria that would normally cause a smelly odor as a byproduct of their reproduction. The technical term for bad breath is halitosis. By brushing your teeth, flossing, and using a mouthwash product regularly, you’ll kill enough bacteria that bad breath becomes a thing of the past.

How Else Can I Take Care of My Oral Health?

Of course, brushing your teeth isn’t the end of dental hygiene; it’s just the start! There are lots of other ways you can take care of your oral health, including:

  • Make sure that you use a professional fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste can repair your enamel and help you maintain top-tier tooth health over the long-term

  • Be sure to floss twice per day at the same times as you brush your teeth. Flossing gets in between the hard-to-reach areas of your teeth and maximizes dental health

  • Add a mouthwash to your dental routine. Mouthwash kills even more plaque and bacteria and makes it harder for plaque to form in the future. Plus, it’ll make your breath minty fresh!

All in all, follow the twice per day and two-minute rule and your brushing techniques should produce fabulous results. 

Want to find a great electric toothbrush or toothpaste to revitalize your oral care routine? Check out Supersmile today!