Brushing your teeth is one of the most important daily habits for maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems. But it can be challenging to make toothbrushing a consistent habit if you’re not used to doing it regularly. Here are some tips and strategies for getting into the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day.
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Why Brushing Your Teeth Is So Important
Before going into how to make toothbrushing a habit, it’s helpful to understand why it’s so important in the first place:
- Prevents cavities and tooth decay: Brushing removes plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that coats your teeth after eating. If plaque builds up, it can lead to cavities and tooth decay.
- Fights gum disease: Plaque at your gumline can cause inflammation and bleeding. If left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, a serious gum infection.
- Freshens breath: Food and bacteria in your mouth are what primarily cause bad breath. Brushing removes particles that cause odor.
- Removes stains: Over time, drinks like coffee, tea, and wine can stain your tooth enamel. Regular brushing helps remove surface stains.
- Saves money: Preventing problems like cavities and gum disease reduces the amount you’ll need to spend on dental work over your lifetime.
As you can see, there are a number of important health and aesthetic reasons to get into the daily habit of brushing your teeth properly.
How Often You Should Brush Your Teeth
Dentists universally recommend brushing your teeth twice per day for good oral hygiene. Here are some general guidelines:
- Brush first thing in the morning to remove plaque that has built up overnight.
- Brush before bed to remove food debris and plaque from eating and snacking throughout the day.
- After meals: If you can’t brush after eating, rinsing your mouth with water can reduce food debris in the short term.
Brushing more than two times per day generally isn’t necessary for most people. In fact, over-brushing can damage tooth enamel and irritate gums.
9 Tips to make brushing your teeth a habit
Brushing your teeth is one of the most important daily habits for maintaining good oral health. But it can be challenging to remember to brush your teeth properly and consistently every day. Follow these 9 tips to help make tooth brushing an automatic part of your daily routine.
1. Set up reminders
Reminders are one of the easiest ways to help you remember to brush your teeth. Here are some ideas for reminders:
- Set an alarm on your phone or smartwatch to go off at the times you want to brush.
- Put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror or by your toothbrush as visual cues.
- Ask someone you live with to remind you if they see you forgetting.
- Use an app like BrushDJ that tracks brushing and sends reminders.
Aim to brush at least twice per day – once in the morning and once before bed. Setting reminders for those key times makes it more likely you’ll stay on track.
2. Keep your toothbrush in plain sight
Out of sight means out of mind. Keep your toothbrush somewhere obvious so that you see it and remember to use it. Ideas include:
- Store toothbrushes openly on your bathroom counter, not tucked away in a drawer or cabinet.
- Leave toothbrushes on your nightstand to make brushing before bed easy.
- Consider getting a second toothbrush to leave by the kitchen sink for brushing after meals.
You’re much more likely to brush when you pass by and see your toothbrush than if it’s hidden.
3. Pair brushing with an existing habit
Link tooth brushing to a habit you already do, so it piggybacks on your routine. Options:
- Brush right after you wake up.
- Brush after your morning shower or bath.
- Brush after breakfast.
- Brush before getting dressed in the morning or before bed.
- Brush after you walk your dog or feed your pet.
Choose a current habit that happens at or close to the times you want to brush. Then add tooth brushing to that existing pattern.
4. Make it fun and enjoyable
Add something you like to make tooth brushing more fun. Here are possibilities:
- Play music or podcasts you enjoy while you brush.
- Treat yourself to a fancy electric toothbrush.
- Upgrade to a toothpaste flavor you love.
- Allow yourself screen time like watching videos while you brush.
- Try brushing your teeth in the shower for a spa-like feel.
Finding ways to make brushing a treat will increase your motivation.
5. Use Habit Tracker apps or charts
Tracking your progress can keep you motivated and on track. Try using:
- A habit tracker app to record each time you brush.
- A calendar or chart on the wall you mark off each day you remember to brush.
- A journal where you write down your brushing for the day.
Visually seeing your successes will help reinforce the habit. And if you miss a day, you’ll know you need to get back on track.
Here is an example habit tracker calendar you could recreate:
6. Set up post-brushing rewards
Treat yourself after brushing to positively reinforce the habit. For example:
- Enjoy a piece of chocolate or other candy once done brushing for the day.
- Spend 15 minutes reading, gaming, or on social media straight after brushing before bed.
- Take a relaxing hot shower after your morning brushing.
Having something small to look forward to makes you more likely to follow through.
7. Buy new brushing tools
Try using specialty brushing tools to increase your excitement about brushing:
- Get an electric toothbrush for easier brushing.
- Buy a tool to help clean your tongue.
- Get flossers for on-the-go flossing.
- Purchase teeth whitening products.
- Invest in an oral irrigator or water pick.
Having new oral hygiene gadgets and products can refresh your enthusiasm.
8. Set goals and track progress
Setting goals related to brushing and seeing your progress helps stay motivated. Ideas:
- Aim to brush twice per day for a month straight.
- Set a goal to floss x number of times per week.
- Make objectives to reduce plaque buildup or gum inflammation at your next dentist visit.
- Plan to whiten your teeth by x shades in 3 months.
Seeing yourself hit milestones will boost your tooth brushing dedication.
9. Involve your family (especially kids)
Make brushing a family activity, especially for young kids. Ways to do this:
- Sing a silly tooth brushing song together.
- Reward your kids with stickers on a calendar when they brush.
- Have contests to see who can brush the longest.
- Let kids pick out their own toothpaste flavors and brushes.
- Brush alongside each other and help with technique.
Tooth brushing habits start young. Making it social and fun promotes healthy routines.
Step-by-Step Brushing Instructions
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to brush your teeth properly:
1. Use a soft or medium bristled toothbrush.
Avoid hard-bristled brushes, which can wear down enamel over time. Consider getting an electric toothbrush, which can be easier to use and more effective at plaque removal. Replace your toothbrush about every 3-4 months.
2. Apply a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride helps strengthen enamel and prevent cavities. Using too much toothpaste foams up excessively and doesn’t help clean better.
3. Angle the bristles toward your gums.
Gently brush back and forth in short strokes. Avoid aggressive scrubbing, which can damage gums.
4. Brush all outer tooth surfaces.
Make sure to brush the front, back, and top of each tooth.
5. Brush your inner tooth surfaces.
Gently brush the insides of your front teeth.
6. Brush your tongue.
This removes bacteria and freshens breath.
7. Spit out excess toothpaste foam.
Rinse away any remaining toothpaste. No need to rinse vigorously.
Proper technique is key for optimizing your brushing. Going through these steps slowly and methodically is more beneficial than rushing.
Troubleshooting Common Obstacles
It’s normal to run into obstacles when trying to establish a new routine. Here are some common toothbrushing roadblocks and how to overcome them:
Problem: You’re too tired at night to brush.
Solution: Try brushing earlier in your evening wind-down routine. Or do a quick mini-brush before bed just to remove surface plaque.
Problem: You forget to pack your toothbrush when traveling.
Solution: Designate a special traveling toothbrush that lives in your suitcase. Or keep disposable brushes on hand.
Problem: Brushing first thing makes you gag.
Solution: Wait 10-15 minutes after waking before brushing to allow your gag reflex to calm.
Problem: You hate the taste of mint toothpaste.
Solution: Try different natural flavors like strawberry or coconut. Or use toothpaste formulated for sensitivities.
Problem: You’re always in a rush in the morning.
Solution: Wake up 5-10 minutes earlier build toothbrushing into your routine. Or do a quick brush to tide you over.
A little planning and forethought can help you tackle any obstacles. Don’t get discouraged!
Making Brushing Fun and Enjoyable
Here are some ways to make your toothbrushing habit feel more fun and enjoyable:
- Play upbeat music while you brush to set the mood.
- Try an electric toothbrush with built-in timers and pulsations.
- Use a toothpaste flavor you love like cinnamon or fruit flavors.
- Set a phone timer for 2 minutes so you brush for the full recommended time.
- Watch an enjoyable video or TV show while you brush.
- Read funny comics or the news during your brushing session.
- Take time to appreciate your fresh, clean mouth after brushing!
Adding elements you like can help conditioning brushing as an appealing, rewarding ritual.
Brushing Your Teeth 101: FAQ
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about brushing your teeth:
How long should I brush my teeth for?
Aim for 2 minutes total, 1 minute per the upper teeth and 1 minute for the lower teeth. Many electric toothbrushes have built-in timers to make this easier.
How hard should I brush?
Brush gently using short, gentle strokes. Aggressive scrubbing can damage tooth enamel and irritate gums.
What toothbrush is best?
Look for soft or medium bristles. Electric spinbrushes can aid plaque removal. Avoid hard bristles. Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months.
What should I use if I don’t have a toothbrush?
You can use a clean finger wrapped in a soft cloth. Or chew xylitol gum, which can stimulate saliva flow.
What is the proper amount of toothpaste to use?
Use about a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Using too much foams excessively without added benefit.
Why is fluoride important?
Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and protects against cavities. Most major brands contain fluoride. Use fluoride unless your dentist advises otherwise.
Brushing your teeth properly doesn’t need to be complicated. Focus on gentle, thorough brushing for two minutes twice per day. Develop the habit, and you’ll reap the lifelong benefits of a healthy smile.
Getting into the consistent habit of brushing your teeth twice a day is one of the best things you can do for your oral health and hygiene. By understanding the techniques, choosing opportune times, setting reminders, and making it fun, you can effectively establish toothbrushing as an automatic routine keyed to your morning and evening activities.
It can take diligence to form a new habit, but the effort is well worth it. Regular brushing will help prevent cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and maintain your smile for life. Just a few minutes each day is all it takes to protect your dental health. So grab your toothbrush and get brushing! Your teeth will thank you.