Close-up, slightly out of focus image of woman's head from nose to chin, smiling with white teeth and brown hair slightly obstructing face

Photo courtesy of Lesly Juarez/​Unsplash

By the time most people turn 70 years old, they’ve spent approximately 71 days of their lives brushing their teeth twice a day. If we’re spending so much of our time taking care of our teeth, learning the proper technique is a safe place to start. As the saying goes, a clean tooth does not decay.”

The Mechanics

Ultimately, as long as you’re brushing your teeth thoroughly and regularly, you’re already headed in a healthier direction. Brushing advice varies greatly among experts, but the most commonly agreed-upon method seems to be the Bass method. Dr. Charles Bass is the brains behind the brushing, having developed the method in the 1940s and 50s after he suddenly lost two of his own teeth to periodontia. The Bass method’s main objective is simple: clean your teeth at the source of the problem. 

Here’s how:

  1. Add toothpaste to your brush, and place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth, with the bristles facing the gumline of your mouth.
  2. Start with the outer sides of your teeth and use short, back-and-forth, vibrational movements to oust the soft foreign material lodged in the wedges of your teeth and gums. 
  3. Move to the back sides of your teeth using the same motion as Step 2.
  4. Brush the chewing sides of your teeth using the same motion as Step 2.
  5. The back surface of the last tooth in each of the four quadrants of your mouth is usually the dirtiest, according to Bass’s research. Towards the end of your routine, place the tip of your toothbrush over the back of the last tooth and manipulate the brush to remove the foreign, bacteria-loving material. Repeat for every tooth in the back of each quadrant of your mouth.
Infographic of how to brush teeth with different stages showing to brush teeth in back, in front, underneath, and behind

Even if you’re brushing effectively, your mouth needs its TLC for a substantial amount of time. Brushing your teeth for one to two minutes (most dentists are known to recommend two) can ensure you’ve dislodged nearly all the plaque and bacteria that you’ve accumulated in between cleanings. 

The Timing

No one likes morning breath. Brushing your teeth in the morning is like pushing a reset button for your mouth — it rids your mouth of bacteria (especially the odor-causing kind) that can grow overnight. 

If you breakfast before you brush, just be sure to wait 30 minutes or so before getting that toothbrush out. Brushing your teeth right after you eat might help prevent plaque build up, but it also is said to wear down enamel that is already being softened by the acid from your food. A better idea may be to delay the OJ and brush first. Your tooth enamel will better maintain its strength, helping for a whiter smile.

Needless to say, brushing your teeth in the evening can be another important way to prevent plaque build-up. 

How it works: When acid in your mouth combines with leftover food particles and bacteria, a chemical reaction happens all up in there. Said reaction creates the sticky substance we love to hate and know as plaque. Plaque is said to begin sticking around your teeth and gums around two hours after you eat, and generally takes about 24 hours to completely form. Brushing your teeth immediately after every time you eat, however, is pretty unrealistic. But making sure to brush in the evening is one surefire way to prevent your mouth’s plaque from growing more permanently overnight. 

A truly healthy mouth gets TLC from all aspects of your life. Your oral hygiene deserves more effort than brushing, such as flossing daily, eating a balanced diet, and visiting your dentist for regular deep cleanings and exams.

Recommendations for how long, how often, and ultimately how to brush your teeth will vary based on your dentist. Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.