This Is Exactly How Long You Need to Brush Your Teeth

You've (hopefully) been brushing your teeth since you were a small child. That kind of muscle memory means that you probably aren't really thinking about what you're doing while you're doing it, which raises the question: Are you brushing your teeth right?

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How long should I brush my teeth?

You probably have a decent guess when it comes to how long you need to spend brushing your teeth. But is it right? We spoke to Dr. Paul Luepke, Chair of Surgical Sciences, Professor, and Postdoctorate Director in Periodontics at Marquette University, School of Dentistry, for an expert opinion. “I would say two minutes, twice a day, for brushing,” Dr. Luepke said. Two minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can be easy to stop early and think you’ve done a thorough job. We recommend setting a timer, playing a favorite song that is at least two minutes long, or, as Dr. Luepke pointed out, using an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer. Be sure you are also using the right angle and pressure when brushing your teeth.

Do I need to floss every day?

Unfortunate news for all of us: Yes. You do need to floss your teeth every day. Dr. Ryan Dodge, a dentist practicing at Howell Comprehensive General Dentistry, told RD that “It is important to clean in between your teeth once a day with floss, floss picks, or a water flosser to eliminate tooth decay–causing bacteria that harbor between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach.” A water flosser is a great option for people who hate to manually floss between every tooth. It can reach areas of your mouth that you might have difficulty getting to with your hands and a string of floss. It can also save you time! Water flossing can take only a few minutes for a well-cared-for mouth. For those who would rather go the old-fashioned route, Dr. Luepke gives this flossing-time tip: “Flossing is by tooth, so it is not that time-dependent. If [the floss] is not waxed, wait for the squeak, and then mouthwash 30 seconds.”

Is mouthwash just for bad breath?

That brings us to another good point. Mouthwash: It’s not just for bad breath anymore. A quality mouthwash or mouth rinse can help rinse and remove any plaque that brushing and flossing didn’t get rid of, and can help prevent and reduce tartar and gingivitis. Be sure to get alcohol-free mouthwash so it doesn’t dry out your mouth! Using the right mouthwash is one of the 37 secrets your dentist wishes you knew.

What else do I need to do for good oral hygiene?

Beyond brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a good mouthwash, there is actually more you can do for a healthy set of pearly whites. “Eat a balanced diet low on sugary drinks and snacks. And last but not least, visit your dental team twice a year for a cleaning, exam, and radiographs to ensure excellent oral hygiene and to prevent tooth decay and gum disease!” Dr. Dodge recommends. The wrong diet is one of the 30 everyday mistakes you’re probably making that can ruin your teeth.

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Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy has been a writer and editor for RD.com since February of 2019. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing and Rhetoric. She is thrilled to be living and working in the Big Apple although she misses the easy access to freshly made Wisconsin cheese curds and Kopps Custard. When not at the Reader’s Digest office, you can find her downing too many chai lattes and rereading her favorite Harry Potter books.