The Do’s and Don’ts of Brushing Teeth

Regular brushing is the best preventive maintenance to guard against premature oral disease and tooth decay.


Regular brushing rituals should start at an early age and continue throughout a lifetime. There is more to it than just grabbing any old brush and agitating the mouth and gums to remove surface plaque and residue; if not done properly or with care, sometimes permanent damage is incurred. Flossing is a recommended compliment to brushing which aids in removing food particles that have become deeply lodged between teeth. Flossing also removes bacteria, one of the main causes of bad breath. A simple Do and Don’t list will aid anyone in achieving a complete dental hygiene program that provides maximum benefits and lasting results.

Flossing Do’s 

Flossing should be considered part of the brushing program and not an exception to it. Flossing removes tiny wedged food particles in the teeth as well as breaking down calculus or tartar, which most often has to be removed by a dentist during a cleaning visit. Without flossing, as much as 35% of your teeth can remain encrusted with residue, and it has been shown that regular flossing at least once day (prior to brushing) can aid in decreasing the risk of heart attack.

Dental floss that comes in the 25 to 35 cm diameter range is a comfortable fit for most people. Nothing should be substituted for dental floss since it is designed and treated specifically to clean the teeth without harming the gums. Generally, a loop around the middle finger with an extension between the thumb and forefinger offers the best leverage. Flossing should begin at the gum base line, while gently working upward and over the top of the tooth. 

Flossing Don’ts

Never floss down deeply into the gum or turn the floss thread at an exaggerated angle. If the thread hangs up, it can be removed by gently working it back and forth, and up and down until it frees up. Old floss should never be used and the container should be checked for cleanliness. 

Do List—Adults Brushing Frequency and Use

Adults are advised to use a good fluoride toothpaste or gel that resists bacteria and kills germs. Brushing twice a day is sufficient, usually after lunch and after dinner, unless something acidic or sweet has been recently consumed which would require an additional brushing, especially before bedtime. A good fluoride mouthwash can be substituted for a brushing if the consumption of sweets has been kept low. Brushing the four sections of the mouth: inside, outside, upper and lower portions for at least two minutes should be adequate. Electronic toothbrushes offer a stylized option, affording speed and directional controls, and they also allow more time spent on actual cleaning. Going with a softer bristle brush is more advisable than opting for a harder bristle alternative since the stiffer bristles can remove delicate gum tissue and produce bleeding and even injury. 

Don’t List—Adults Brushing Frequency and Use

It is never advisable to loan out or accept a loaned toothbrush. It is a personalized hygienic item meant for one person only. Moist brushes are bacteria and germ carriers.

Brush for a full two minutes or more. Under-brushing can be as bad as no brushing at all. Avoid swallowing toothpaste or gel—spit it out and rinse your mouth thoroughly. Rinsing discards all of the bacteria that have been dislodged from your mouth; you do not want to ingest it back into your system. 

Do not ignore any signs of gum bleeding, fever or swelling, sensitivity to cold or hot liquids. These signs point to problems associated with gum disease or early tooth decay. Make an immediate appointment with your local dentist to have X-rays and a complete oral examination performed. 

Avoid consuming sweets after your last meal. Sugars and acids will start to work on your teeth directly after contact and progress during your sleep time period. 

Do List—Children Brushing Frequency and Use

Children often perform unwanted tasks when they are distracted; getting your children to brush their teeth while taking a bath is a double win situation. You can offer a toy for a successful brushing period. Children are also more apt to use a toothbrush that comes in the guise of a toy, like one of the new electronic brushes that talk or play songs. Kids can also accompany their parent to the store and pick out their own toothbrush and favorite toothpaste flavor. 

Use positive reinforcement when a child performs a teeth brushing session. You can give them a small toy, nutritious snack, a star on an achievement chart or some other small award that shows you appreciate their desire to accomplish an important task. Make it a habit or ritual every day, something to look forward to instead of something to be feared or dreaded. Brushing frequency for children applies as it does for adults—at least twice a day. 

Don’t List—Children Brushing Frequency and Use

Young children should not be left unattended to accomplish an adequate brushing session. Their brushing time and technique must be monitored to insure that they adopt the correct procedures for good future habits. Small children under the age of 2 years-old will need personalized guidance, and they should not be allowed to ingest toothpaste. Depending upon maturity of the child, the age of 9 is a reasonable age to begin the use of fluoride supplements. Younger children can inadvertently swallow too much fluoride which can cause sickness. 

Children should not be offered candies, sugary drinks or other enticements as an incentives to go to bed. Once the last meal has been consumed and the adults have brushed, that should be the end of it. 

Children have a hard time cleaning up after themselves and this includes their hygiene supplies. Never let them leave their toothbrush and supplies lay scattered over the counter or on the floor. Teach them about the importance of oral hygiene and how bad germs and bacteria can affect their lives and make them sick. This means using clean rinsing cups and toothbrushes, capping the toothpaste dispenser, using clean washrags and storing their supplies in neat, orderly fashion. 

Toothbrush Condition

A standard toothbrush or toothbrush cartridge should be replaced after three months or upon the appearance of obvious bristle wear. Since the bristles can carry and transmit flu or cold germs and bacteria, a toothbrush should be replaced after a bout of infection. Normal rinsing with hot water will remove most harmful particles after each cleaning, but if in doubt about the cleanliness of the brush it should be replaced. Toothbrushes should be shaken dry and left to air dry out in an upright hygienically clean container. 

From Our Team

  • At Kerhoulas Dental Streetsville, we provide a variety of treatment options to meet the unique needs of all our Mississauga patients.
    - The Kerhoulas Dental Team

(905) 821-3423