Brushing your teeth, why, when and how

28, Feb 2020 | Dental Advice

Woman smiling with a toothbrush

Why do you need to brush your teeth?

Brushing your teeth twice a day isn’t just to keep the mouth feeling clean. It’s a way to keep your whole body healthy, too.

You need to brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, this is done by removing plaque, the transparent layer of bacteria that coats the teeth. When you brush correctly, you eliminate the plaque build-up and bacteria that can otherwise collect between your teeth and on your tongue. Brushing your teeth twice a day will also help promote a stronger immune system and a healthier lifestyle.

How does brushing your teeth prevent decay?

The mechanical act of brushing your teeth removes the very sticky dental plaque which is a mixture of bacteria, acids, sticky by-products and food remnants. It forms naturally on teeth immediately after you’ve eaten.

The bacteria consume sugar and, as a by-product, produce acids which dissolve mineral out of the teeth, leaving microscopic holes we can’t see. Brushing frequently stops the bacteria developing to a stage where it can harm your teeth. A build-up of plaque on your teeth can cause gum inflammation (gingivitis) which, over time, can lead to loss of gum tissue.

Regular brushing will also help to prevent tartar build-up, tartar is plaque in a hardened form that is more damaging and difficult to remove but can be done by visiting your Hygienist. 

Clocks - when to brush teeth

When should you brush your teeth?

 Brushing your teeth on a regular basis is essential to reduce a harmful built up of plaque.

  1. Brushing twice a day is recommended as a minimum.
  2. Its most important to brush your teeth last thing at night to remove food debris which will prevent a harmful build-up of plaque through the night.
  3. Brush before breakfast, not afterwards to prevent tooth erosion.
  4. Brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes each time.

Why should you brush your teeth before breakfast rather than afterwards?

When you’re asleep your mouth is inactive, with lots of bacteria multiplying and attaching themselves to your teeth, you’ll wake up with a mouth that poses a health risk. By having breakfast first, you’re feeding those bacteria nutrients and sugars to do even more damage.

When bacteria consume the sugars in the foods you eat, acid is created. This acid is damaging to the enamel and your gums. If you then brush your teeth straight after acidic food or fruit juice, the abrasive bristles of your toothbrush and your toothpaste, mix with this acidity and will begin to wear the enamel away, revealing the naturally yellow dentin below. This is known as tooth erosion.

Additionally, not brushing before breakfast means you are swallowing not only your food, but all the bacteria that’s built up during the night. It therefore makes sense, to brush and floss before you enjoy your breakfast.

Dentist with tooth and toothbrush

 How should you brush your teeth?

The key to successful teeth brushing is gently brushing for long enough, at least 2 minutes, and systematically working across the inside and outside of all your teeth.


Folow the steps below: 

1. Place a pea-sized amount of a fluoride toothpaste on your toothbrush, don’t wet the toothbrush with water as this will only reduce the concentration of the fluoride and encourage people to spit it out during the brushing. Your saliva is enough.

2. Insert the toothbrush into your mouth about a 45-degree angle to your gums, now use gentle, short circular strokes to brush your front teeth.

Brushing front top teeth
Brushing front bottom teeth

3. Brush the outside surfaces of your teeth, ensuring you get the back molars and upper areas of your chewing surfaces.

Brush outside surfaces of teeth
Brush bottom inside surface of teeth
Brushing bottom chewing surface of teeth

4. Now flip your toothbrush upside down to get the inside surface of your top front teeth, then back around to reach the inside surface of your bottom front teeth.

Brush lower inside surface of teeth
Brush upper inside surface of teeth

5. Brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth to get rid of any bacteria build-up or plaque.

6. Now spit, don’t rinse. Rinsing with water will remove all the good preventative properties of the fluoride in the toothpaste, similarly, don’t use a mouthwash straight afterwards either, even if it does contain fluoride! 

Brush your tongue

7. Use a fluoride mouthwash at a different time of day, such as after lunch, then don’t eat or drink for at least 30 minutes afterwards to retain the fluoride.

8. Don’t eat or drink anything after you have brushed your teeth last thing at night apart from water.

Fluoride mouthwash
Alarm clock
Fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush

Why use a fluoride toothpaste?

Always use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in water sources and makes teeth stronger and more resistant to cavity-forming acids. Fluoride will help reduce the demineralisation process, which is the first stage to tooth decay. Also, is you have the demineralisation but not yet a full-blown cavity in the tooth, the fluoride can be taken up into that demineralised area to help it remineralise.

Our conclusion

Brushing properly, regularly and thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste is the best way to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, whether you use a manual or an electric toothbrush.