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The importance of brushing your teeth every day has been drilled into your brain since childhood, but when was the last time you thought about HOW you brush your teeth?

Many of us learned improper brushing techniques as kids and have never looked back. And these improper brushing techniques can cause dental problems nearly as bad as those caused by not brushing at all.

Here are 8 tips for keeping your teeth clean and healthy:

1. Always use a soft-bristle brush

Medium and hard-bristle toothbrushes are actually terrible for your teeth. They’ll get rid of early plaque buildup and germs, sure, but they also scrape the enamel right off your teeth. This can cause severe tooth sensitivity and even structural damage.

2. Be gentle with your teeth

It’s tempting to vigorously scrub your teeth the same way you’d scrub stains off the floor, but this is another great way to brush the enamel right off your teeth. Focus on being gentle and methodical. Rather than viciously scrubbing your teeth from left to right, focus on one area of your mouth at a time and brush with small vertical movements. Jiggle your brush gently to get into spaces between the teeth.

3. Always brush your tongue

Between 1,000 and 100 million bacteria can live in the human mouth at any given time, and a lot of this bacteria likes to live on the tongue. This bacteria can then easily transfer to your teeth immediately after brushing. So when you’ve finished brushing your teeth, spend 20-30 seconds brushing your tongue. Most toothbrushes now offer a tongue-brush on the back.

4. Set a timer

Notice how in that last point we said “gentle and methodical”? Giving your teeth a 30-second brush isn’t going to do much about your oral hygiene. You should be brushing for 2 full minutes so you can get into all the nooks and crannies in your mouth. If you really don’t want to set a timer, listen to a song that’s roughly two minutes long and time your brushing by that instead.

5. Don’t forget to floss

It doesn’t matter whether you floss before or after brushing your teeth; if you really want healthy teeth, you need to floss. Bacteria and food debris that get stuck in between the teeth can cause serious decay in both teeth and gums. You should floss every time you brush your teeth.

6. Change your toothbrush regularly

Germs will build up on your toothbrush over time, and a frayed toothbrush isn’t very effective for cleaning your teeth. You should change your toothbrush, or the head of your toothbrush if you’re using an electronic one, every 2-3 months.

7. Don’t brush too much

You should spend two minutes a day, twice a day, brushing your teeth—and no more. Brushing too much can lead to the same problems as brushing too vigorously. Brushing immediately after meals can cause even more damage, as acidic foods frequently stick to the enamel. Then the enamel gets scraped off along with your food.

8. Go to the dentist regularly

It’s tempting to only go to the dentist when you’re having a problem, but this is setting yourself up for more cavities. Going to the dentist for dental cleanings are incredibly important for preventing a variety of oral health issues. Annual oral exams can also catch problems before you start feeling pain, so you don’t have to deal with the tooth ache at all.And it’s good to get used to time in the dentist’s chair in case you ever have to deal with serious issues.

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