Despite most of us thinking that we're brushing our teeth correctly or flossing frequently enough, dentist visits are often full of surprises. Irritation, cavities, gingivitis ― the list of our maladies goes on and on.
It's always important to go back to basics and make sure that you're brushing your teeth with proper technique. When it comes to ways people are brushing their teeth incorrectly, Jessica Hilburg, DDS and associate dean for clinical affairs at the NYC College of Dentistry, is the expert.
She told HuffPost that there's one important part of your mouth that too many people skip over.
"Sometimes people forget to brush the insides of their teeth, the surfaces that face the tongue and the palate," Hilburg told HuffPost. "Sometimes people forget these areas because we don't see them when we look in the mirror. Food and plaque can buildup in these areas so it's just as important to brush there as it is on the front of our teeth where we can easily see."
Hilburg also said not brushing your teeth long enough (she recommends brushing for at least two minutes twice a day) and using the wrong amount of pressure while brushing is also incorrect.
"Applying too much pressure while brushing could damage gums and be abrasive to the teeth," she said. "Applying too little pressure while brushing just isn't as effective and will not remove the plaque as well as using gentle pressure. [Also] just rubbing the toothbrush back and forth in long strokes will not do as good a job as the short strokes because the short strokes allow you to get in between the teeth much better."
She added, "The 'right amount of pressure' is pressure that feels comfortable, does not crush the bristles of the toothbrush (too much pressure) and of course leaves your teeth feeling and looking clean."
If you want to double check your brushing techniques and times, Hilburg suggests following the instructions on the American Dental Association's website.
"It should take two minutes to brush your whole mouth ― 30 seconds for top teeth surfaces that face the lip and cheek, 30 seconds for top teeth inside surfaces and same for bottom teeth ― a total of two minutes. The chewing surfaces should be brushed while doing the sides," Hilburg said.
"Regardless of the technique used even if you aren't as organized as I've described, tooth brushing should touch upon all surfaces—inner, outer and chewing surfaces."
Or you can just watch this handy video:
Hilburg also gave HuffPost suggestions about the right type of toothbrush and toothpaste people should use ― and what to avoid.
"Using a soft toothbrush is recommended, as bristles that are too hard can damage gums and may not be flexible enough to remove the plaque," Hilburg said. "Soft bristle toothbrushes are best whether they are manual or power brushes. Choose a size toothbrush that feels comfortable and isn't so large that it won't fit on the sides of your teeth comfortably."
Hilburg added, "A toothpaste with fluoride will help decrease the risk of decay and cavities. If any toothpaste felt irritating then of course a person should avoid it."
In order to maintain good oral hygiene, Hilburg also recommends flossing daily, brushing your tongue and using an interdental cleaner (a small pointy brush) as well. And don't forget the inside of your teeth!