It may be a while since your grandmother told you to brush your teeth for 2 minutes 3 times a day. Was she right or wrong? It seems like a pretty fair guidepost, but how well does it hold up with the evidence?
Dr. Anna Guarna, writing for www.colgate.com, says “Proper brushing technique is probably more important than timing.” The thing to remember is that the point of tooth brushing is to get the teeth clean. Many sources say you can’t do that in less time than two minutes. Others recommend as much as three.
It is important to remember that flossing is just as important. Short strokes around every tooth, emphasis on getting inside surfaces too, and flossing can reduce bacteria left on the teeth. Leftover bacteria can lead to gingivitis and periodontitis. Basically, you run the risk of developing diseases of both the gums and the enamel (cavities).
Most dentists still recommend at least 2 minutes at a time. Some naysayers have complained that over brushing can lead to erosion of the gum line. The problem turns out to be more a problem of the pressure applied than the length of time spent brushing. Dr. Guarna recommends using the non-dominant hand.
Dr. Sesemann from WebMD recommends that you divide the mouth into four quarters, and do each for thirty seconds. He also points out that some electric toothbrushes come with an automatic timer to set you straight. Getting the proper bristles is also important. If they are too stiff they can damage the gums.
Sesemann also says “three times is best.” So it may just be your grandmother was right on the money. Since there is evidence to show that plaque on the teeth can indicate plaque in the arteries, proper oral hygiene is essential. The secret is to make sure it is a routine part of your day.
Pacific Dental Group suggests you don’t just brush teeth for the length of time; make sure brush all sides of your teeth and gum.