The two things almost everyone gets wrong about brushing their teeth


Toothbrushing’s probably pretty high on your list of things you mastered ages ago. You’ve brushed your teeth twice a day your whole life, right? You’ve got this.

Well, maybe…

Turns out that only 1 in 10 New Zealanders brush in a way that isn’t damaging their teeth.

It might sound a little counterintuitive, but giving your teeth a vigorous brush in the morning is actually doing it wrong.

For decades, dentists the world over have agreed that the best thing you can do for your teeth in the morning is to go easy on them.


Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush is the most effective way of keeping our teeth clean,” says Dr Sarah Cole, dentist and member of the New Zealand Dental Association.

“Using a medium or hard bristled brush puts you in danger of wearing away the enamel on your teeth, creating grooves in your teeth over time. Brushing vigorously does the same damage.”

So we surveyed 3,000 New Zealanders to see how well they’re following dentists orders.

Surely most of us are doing it right… right? Well, let’s start with the bristles…

Only about 3% of us use hard bristles — the worst kind of bristles to use — so that’s a good start. But… another 54% are using medium bristles.

Which leaves less than half of us using the right kind of toothbrush.

You might be wondering why toothbrush companies keep producing brushes without soft bristles. The reality is that when people get used to using firmer bristles, they don’t like the feeling of soft bristles.

At least not at first.

But, like anything, if you get someone using soft bristles for a few days, they get used to it. Then, when they go back to a harder bristle, it seems too hard.

Same goes for how vigorously we brush.

Brushing gently feels ineffective if we’re vigorous scrubbers.

And a whopping 85% are just that — tooth scrubbers not tooth brushers!

Yes, only 15% of us say we brush gently, like 100% of dentists say we should be.

“Vigorous brushing doesn’t make our teeth any more clean,” says Dr Cole, “but it does risk wearing the enamel off our teeth and causing gum recession. This is most often associated with an older mouth, but can happen in a young mouth too.”

One way to know whether you’re brushing too vigorously is if your toothbrush wears out quickly.

It’s common for a soft toothbrush to wear out after a few weeks. But if it looks like this after only a few brushes…

…then that’s a good sign you’re brushing too hard.

What to do about it?

Hold your toothbrush with your fingers, not your fist.

“Brushing too hard is a really common mistake,” says Dr Cole. “Which is why we recommend holding your toothbrush with your fingers rather than your fist. It’s an easy way to force yourself to brush much more gently.”

Brush soft and slow not hard and fast.

“Vigorous brushers also tend to brush hard and fast. Rather than spending a full two minutes brushing, they get through it in 20 seconds. So yes, if you brush gently for 20 seconds you’re not going to get as much off your teeth. Brush gently for a full two minutes for clean teeth now and happy teeth in the future.”

“And don’t use a random universal scrub technique,” Dr Cole advises. “Have a routine. Start in one place — e.g. top right, and finish bottom left.”

Only 10% of New Zealanders are using a soft toothbrush and brushing gently. Do those two crazy-simple things to level up in the bathroom.


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