• Dr. Sonal Naidu Addal

Ideal Brushing Time: Do you know for how long should one brush their teeth?

Let's discuss about brushing time, it's the time one spends with toothbrush and tooth paste, cleaning their teeth every time they brush. It's important, yet most of us do it arbitrarily!

I’ve heard people say they brush for 5 minutes, or they brush with timer on! I’ve also seen people brush their kids teeth and then let them brush it again for child's gratification. I've also heard (seen) people brush while reading newspapers or checking their phones. Does it sound similar or known ?!

After hearing these stories for years now and trying to counsel all my patients , I thought its high time someone puts light to how much should be the ideal brushing time!

It is something so mundane that people don’t understand that it might be of importance too :)

The ideal brushing time is just about 2 minutes or less! Yes. You read it right.

And while that’s the time an adult should brush their teeth, it reduces when we brush our kids!

Imagine you’re trying to scrub a used cooking pan, which has a bit of food residue sticking to it, will you put a timer or will you consciously check and stop when you’re done. Im sure you know what you’ll to do the utensil. Also do you understand what happens to a pan which is scrubbed hard for a longer time daily twice, the outermost layer of the pan comes off making it unusable in a while!

Something like this happens with our teeth too!

The outermost layer, the ENAMEL is only 2-3 millimetre in thickness and its even lesser in milk teeth. If you over brush, you’ll be unknowingly wearing away your healthy teeth enamel slowly and chronically and it’ll definitely cause tooth problems which are totally uncalled for, Like sensitivity of teeth, abrasion, discolouration et cetera.

So the things which come into play while brushing the teeth are:

  1. The pressure with which one brushes the teeth: The pressure needs to be very less, try to use a brush on a tomato or on the back of your hand and it shouldn’t scratch it. The toothbrush is made of several bristles which work in synchrony to clean the teeth, they are very closely placed and move together, so the very action cleans the teeth and the corners well, we needn’t apply any excessive pressure. If we do, it causes wearing away of enamel which leads to sensitivity in tooth as well as predisposes them to cavities.

  2. The method of brushing: We need to use proper brushing technique depending on our needs and brush accordingly, Like children need to brush in a certain way, a person with gum diseases needs to brush in a different way et cetera.

  3. The type of toothbrush being used: There are soft, medium and medium hard tooth brushes available, or rotary(electric) toothbrushes or interdental brushes and each have its own use depending on the conditions and needs of an individual!

  4. The brushing time: For children the brushing time is around 50 seconds to 1 minute(they just have small 20 teeth ), and for adults it can be around 2 minutes or less.

So if we use a hard brush and extra pressure for 5 minutes, and think you’re doing a great job for your teeth, you know the consequence now. Likewise if you use a soft brush with wrong method again you’re not doing a correct thing too!

So lets standardise and keep the brushing time about 2 minutes a standard, using optimum pressure and correct technique to clean all your teeth!

Some points to ponder:

  • It's found that right handed people brush their right side more and vice versa. Try to analyse and correct it. The cleaning need to happen to all the tooth surfaces.

  • Rotary (Electric) tooth brushes shouldn’t be used without taking care of time as they can be really harmful if they are used with pressure for long duration of brushing time(they were basically designed for people who don't have enough dexterity).

  • Avoid brushing while reading newspapers or checking phones as this increases the time of brushing and you end up cleaning only some area of mouth, but time gives a sense that you had been brushing for quite sometime.


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