Brushing our teeth is one of those skills that we learn so early in life, we never think to question it.
I mean, when was the last time you asked yourself, “I wonder if I breathe correctly?” or “Do I walk right?”
Like we point out in our video tutorial from several years ago, “How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease”, we learn to brush our teeth when we’re toddlers. For most of us, it never dawns on us to review and adjust our brushing technique as we grow older and acquire more fine motor skills.
Unfortunately, failure to revisit and adjust our technique for this daily habit can damage our teeth and gums in the long run.
If you think about it, what other skills did we learn when we were toddlers that we didn’t circle back to, review, and refine our skills later in life? (Speaking of which, does anyone know where I left my crayons? I want to write another article soon. ? )
So, with this article, let’s take a broad look at how we brush our teeth and highlight 3 common mistakes many of us make while brushing.
Mistake #1 – Brushing unconsciously
The importance of awareness in brushing…
We coined the term ‘conscious flossing’ many years ago to help bring to light this idea that we have to be aware of what we’re doing when flossing. The same thing applies to our brushing habits.
You see, if we brush unconsciously, we risk missing an opportunity to help our teeth and gums while also potentially causing them harm.
So, regardless of the brushing technique you apply or the type of toothbrush you use, pay attention to what you’re doing and brush consciously so you maximize the benefit without causing damage through mindless poor habits.
If you’d like to explore how to ramp up your oral hygiene awareness, check out our FREE video tutorial series, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth.
Last point on awareness, without the knowledge of ‘where we are’, how can we know if our actions are helping or not? Here’s an article titled, ‘The First Step to Dental Self Empowerment‘, that outlines a simple 20-minute activity that will do more to improve your oral health than anything else.
Mistake #2 – Brushing too hard
One way unconscious brushing manifests is in the amount of pressure most of us use to brush our teeth.
We like to joke around that if we brush our teeth like we’re scrubbing a grout line in our shower, we could probably benefit from revisiting and adjusting our brushing technique.
The fact is we can brush our teeth too hard.
How do I know if I’m brushing too hard?
Well, the next time you start to brush your teeth, notice how you hold your toothbrush in your hand. If you watch any toddler brush their teeth, they will hold the toothbrush in a closed fist and scrub away at their ‘grout line’.
Many of us still habituate this ‘closed fist’ way to hold our toothbrush.
The bottom line is if we hold our toothbrush like a toddler, we will use the big muscles in our arm and shoulder to brush and we’ll lose the use of finer muscles that can help us optimize our brushing technique.
Using these bigger muscles when we’re an adult means we’re probably applying too much pressure and brushing too hard.
Like we commonly write, our gums like to be massaged. They like to be stimulated. They don’t like to be scrubbed.
Neither do our teeth.
So, rather than doing the closed fist ‘Flintstones’ brushing technique, we suggest holding your toothbrush with your fingertips like you would if you were holding a violin bow.
This hand position allows you to leverage your fine motor skills (something we didn’t have when we learned how to brush as toddlers). Gripping your brush with your fingertips and using your fine motor skills helps you to brush with finesse rather than grind. Your teeth and gums will thank you.
Mistake #3 – Brushing too fast
We’re not talking about how much time we spend brushing our teeth in this case. (Although if you’re interested in what the ideal amount of time to brush your teeth is, check out our article “How long should I brush my teeth?“.)
What we’re referring to here is the actual speed of the motion of our hand while brushing.
While quick motion can be ok, the tendency is to ‘scrub the grout line’ when we brush with a fast hand.
Many years ago, we found the Bass Brushing Technique, and it became our ‘go-to’ solution to help ourselves and others stop the progression of gum disease.
While we’ve written many times on the Bass technique, we would like to offer some refinement to this often-misunderstood brushing strategy.
Bass Brushing Technique revisited…
In previous articles on ‘How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease’, we’ve covered the importance of the angle of the bristles, location on the tooth to focus your efforts, and keeping the motion really, really small.
What we’d like to bring to your attention today is that while this Bass Brushing Technique movement is really small, it doesn’t have to be a fast motion.
You see, to Bass brush correctly, what we’re trying to do is wiggle the bristles down into gum pockets around all of our teeth. This localized wiggling (rather than dragging the brush across several teeth at once) is strategically important to disrupt and disorganize the microbes implicated with gum disease.
But what we find is many people tend to try to do this wiggle at a really fast speed. It’s ok if you Bass brush at a fast speed, but it’s not necessary to do so. Sometimes, I like to Bass brush using a really slow wiggle.
This is especially true if you find an area that is inflamed or painful when brushing. If I find a tender spot, I slow down, go really gentle and spend some time there.
You see, it’s human nature to avoid anything that’s painful. When gum disease is trying to get established, the gum tissue becomes tender and inflamed. Avoiding this area is exactly the wrong thing to do at this point in the game.
What to do when you find a tender spot…
Make a mental note where the tenderness is. You don’t need to know tooth numbers, just something like ‘inside of lower right molars’ or ‘outside of upper front left’ so you get a general area.
Then slow down your brushing even more and bring more awareness to your technique.
Next, using slow, gentle but persistent wiggling, feel around.
See if you can get bristles wiggling under the gum line even between your teeth (yes, doing this can traumatize your bristles a bit but it’s SO helpful in stopping an initial infection!) It may be sensitive. You may get some bleeding.
But your gentle persistence will pay off big time as you will have disrupted the infection there. In a day or two, the tenderness and gingivitis (bleeding gums) will be gone.
Special offer to help you…
Hands down, the most powerful way to help anyone with gum disease start heading in the right direction is by combining our specially designed toothbrushes with our HealThy Mouth Blend.
If you purchase any number of bottles of our HealThy Mouth Blend, we will send you one of our specially designed Bass toothbrushes for FREE.
Yes, our brushes look simple with no frills, but they are SO effective when used with the strategy we’ve outlined here.
I used to have bleeding gums and sensitive teeth…
And now I’m elated to report shiny, white, plaque-free teeth using your natural HealThy Mouth Blend and simple Bass brush!
I appreciate your quality products and your company, particularly how you focus on educating about optimum oral care. Nell A, Washington
So now we have the gum line clean. What about brushing the rest of the tooth?
In our next article, we will share the simple strategy we have found most effective for cleaning all sides of our teeth.
In the meantime, feel free to comment below. How do you hold your toothbrush? Do you ever find yourself scrubbing the grout line? Do you have any gum recession and wonder if your brushing habits have contributed to it? Sharing your story here helps others on their path, too.
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease [video tutorial]
Is flossing actually bad for you? [article]
Electric vs manual brushing. Which is better? [article]
5 steps to a healthy mouth [Free video tutorial series]
The first step to dental self empowerment [Free download and article]
3 times it’s best to NOT brush your teeth [article]
What causes receding gums and how to stop it [article]
4 reasons why brushing is SO important [article]
“How long should I brush my teeth?” [FAQ article]
How to stop bleeding gums in 3 easy steps [article]