For many of us, brushing our teeth is second nature; a quick task we complete every morning and night as part of our daily routine. Although we take the time to brush twice a day, too many of us aren’t brushing correctly. The key to proper tooth brushing includes choosing the right toothbrush and using the correct techniques in order to keep tooth decay and gum disease at bay. This is especially true for kids who require extra guidance and supervision from parents while using a toothbrush. Consider the following tips to help you combat dental diseases and maintain your family’s oral health with proper toothbrush usage.

Choose the Right Toothbrush

The first step to maintaining good oral hygiene is finding the right toothbrush. The best brush will fit comfortably in your mouth and allow you to easily reach all surfaces of your teeth. To start, look for a toothbrush with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval on the box. This guarantees its safety and effectiveness. Most dentists also agree that a soft-bristled brush is best for removing plaque and debris from your teeth. For most people, small-headed brushes are also preferable, as they are better sized to clean all areas of the mouth.

For children, toothbrushes can be purchased specifically for small, growing mouths. Kid-friendly toothbrushes have soft bristles and small heads, which make it easy to gently clean the tiny, hard-to-reach surfaces of a child’s teeth. They also come in many fun colors and themes.

An electric toothbrush may be a better alternative for someone with limited manual dexterity that makes brushing difficult. A child may also find that powered brushes are more fun than manual, which can help encourage regular brushing at home.

In addition to choosing the right toothbrush, you’ll want to take proper care of it to extend its lifespan and keep it free of germs. You can do this by:

  • Rinsing your brush thoroughly after every use to remove toothpaste and debris.
  • Allowing your brush to air-dry in an upright position.
  • Not storing your toothbrush in a closed container or drawer as this creates an environment for bacteria to thrive.
  • Replacing your toothbrush at least every three months or when the bristles start to fray. A worn brush cannot effectively clean your teeth.
  • Getting a new toothbrush following an illness to prevent re-contamination.

Maximize Your Brushing Effectiveness

Equally important as selecting the right toothbrush is making sure you and your child are using it correctly. Brushing teeth properly is a vital part to making sure you remove harmful buildup and plaque from the surfaces of your teeth. Parents of small children will want to supervise and assist their kids until they are old enough to brush on their own — usually around age 8. Need to brush up on your teeth-brushing skills? Make sure you’re doing these important steps:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste to fight cavities and keep enamel strong.
  • Don’t forget to brush your tongue to remove bacteria and prevent bad breath.
  • Avoid brushing too hard, as this can damage your tooth enamel and gums.
  • When brushing along the gum line, angle your toothbrush slightly at 45 degrees.
  • Using a gentle motion, brush the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of the teeth every time you brush.

Brushing your teeth is just one part of your family’s complete dental health regimen. Don’t forget to floss every day to clean between teeth and along the gum line. Limiting sugary drinks and snacks that promote decay and following a well-balanced diet will also help keep your smile healthy. Finally, be sure to visit your dentist twice a year for routine exams and cleanings. Doing these things will help you and your family have healthy mouths and beautiful smiles for a lifetime.

Author bio: Charlie Culp is a dentist at Culp Dental, a leading dental practice located in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences before attending dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina. Culp graduated in 2011 and is currently licensed in both North Carolina and South Carolina.