Brushing your teeth is about more than cleaning them twice a day—and even if you are a diligent brusher, you may not be keeping your pearly whites as sparkly as you think. In fact, you may be causing more harm than good. (Cue sad trombone.)
Here are 7 teeth-brushing bloopers to steer clear of:
1. Brushing too hard
You're not scrubbing a stain off the carpet! Aggressive brushing totally effs with your gums—often leaving them swollen and red—and wears away the enamel on your teeth. A general rule of thumb when easing up on your chompers is to make sure the bristles aren't bent on your teeth when you're brushing.
2. Brushing too fast
Dentists recommend brushing your teeth for two minutes, which most of us fall short of by over a minute. Because brushing your teeth for two minutes feels like forever (no, but seriously), listen to music while you brush. Once you've rocked out to half a song, you've usually hit the two-minute mark.
3. Using the wrong toothbrush
You should only use soft or extra-soft bristles on your teeth. Anything above that, and you're just asking for trouble. If you use the same bristle strength on your teeth as you do your grout, it's time to downgrade.
4. Missing spots
Don't brush the same way every time: Brush in circles, horizontally, and vertically to combat plaque from every angle. Brushing your teeth in the same direction and in the same order wears down your enamel in some areas, while leaving behind bacteria in others. And don't forget those tricky spots, such as the back of your front teeth and the inner surfaces of your back teeth (the ones your tongue presses against).
5. Neglecting your tongue
Your tongue contains oodles of bacteria from the foods you eat and drink... and well, drink, and is bad breath's favorite hotspot. Don't forget to clean the front and back of your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper. Many toothbrushes now come with a snazzy tongue-cleaning surface, so why not make the most of it?
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6. Storing your toothbrush wrong
Many of us toss our toothbrush in a cup beside the sink—meanwhile, this is probably the worst way to store it, since you're leaving it vulnerable to airborne bacteria. (Think someone flushing without putting the lid down. Yeah. I know.) You may think you're being savvy by keeping it in a travel container, but this too breeds bacteria, since the bristles aren't able to dry properly. The best place to store your toothbrush? Upright in a closed cabinet.
7. Changing your toothbrush... well, never
I know a lot of people who don't change their toothbrush until there's about three bristles left. Not cool. The American Dentist Association recommends buying a new toothbrush every two or three months to prevent bacteria and food particles from accumulating. (Plus, ew.)
Do you make sure you're brushing your teeth correctly?
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Image: Brushing your teeth photo via Shutterstock