Skip to main navigation
Skip to main content
Oral health: Brush up on dental care basics
Think you know everything about proper brushing and flossing techniques? Understand the basics and what you
can do to promote oral health.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Your smile and your overall health depend on simple dental care habits, such as brushing and flossing. But are you using the right
techniques? Follow these steps to protect your oral health.
Brushing for oral health
Oral health begins with clean teeth. Keeping the area where your teeth meet your gums clean can prevent
gum disease, while keeping your tooth surfaces clean can help you stave off cavities and gum disease.
Consider these brushing basics:
Brush your teeth twice
a day. When you brush, don't rush. Take about two minutes to do a thorough job. Don't brush right after eating, especially if you had something acidic such as grapefruit or soda. Don't forget to clean your tongue, which harbors bacteria, with a toothbrush
or tongue scraper.
Use the proper equipment. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, which can reduce plaque and a mild form
of gum disease (gingivitis) more than does manual brushing. These devices are also helpful if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush effectively.
Practice good technique. Hold your toothbrush at a slight
angle — aiming the bristles toward the area where your tooth meets your gum. Gently brush with circular short back-and-forth motions. Brushing too hard or with hard bristles can hurt your gums.
Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission.
Advertising & Sponsorship
Brush your teeth for two minutes. Remember to brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue.
Keep your equipment clean. Always
rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air-dry until using it again.
Try to keep it separate from other toothbrushes in the same holder
to prevent cross-contamination. Don't routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast.
Know when to replace your toothbrush. Invest
in a new toothbrush or a replacement head for your electric or battery-operated toothbrush every three months — or sooner if the bristles flay or become irregular.
Flossing for oral health
You can't reach the
bacteria in the tight spaces between your teeth and under the gum line with a toothbrush. That's why daily flossing is important. When you floss:
Don't skimp. Break off about 18 inches (46 centimeters) of
dental floss. Wind most of the floss around the middle finger on one hand, and the rest around the middle finger on the other hand. Grip the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
Be gentle. Guide the floss between your teeth
using a rubbing motion. Don't snap the floss into your gums. When the floss reaches your gum line, curve it against one tooth, making a c shape.
Take it one tooth at a time. Slide the floss into the space between your gum and tooth. Use
the floss to gently rub the side of the tooth in an up-and-down motion. Unwind fresh floss as you progress to the rest of your teeth.
Keep it up. If you find it hard to handle floss, use an interdental cleaner — such as a dental
pick, pre-threaded flosser, tiny brushes that reach between teeth, a water flosser, or wooden or silicone wedge plaque remover.
As long as you do a thorough job, it doesn't matter if you brush or floss first.
Other oral health care tips
In addition to daily brushing and flossing, consider using mouthwash containing fluoride to promote oral health.
Also, resist the temptation
to use toothpicks or other objects that could injure your gums and let in bacteria. If you smoke, try to quit. Using tobacco increases your risk of many diseases, including gum disease and tooth loss.
to see the dentist
To prevent gum disease and other oral health problems, schedule regular dental cleanings and exams that include X-rays. In the meantime, contact your dentist if you notice any signs or symptoms that could suggest oral
health problems, such as:
Red, tender or swollen gums
Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
Gums that begin pulling away from your teeth
Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold
Persistent bad breath or an unusual taste in your mouth
Remember, early detection and treatment of problems
with your gums, teeth and mouth can help ensure a lifetime of good oral health.
June 06, 2019
Products and services
Mayo Clinic on Healthy Aging: Find happiness and vitality for a lifetime. Learn more.
See more In-depth
Products and Services
Mayo Clinic Health Letter
Dental floss vs. water pick
Dry mouth relief
Electric vs. manual toothbrush
disease and oral health
Oral health: A window to your overall health
Show more related content
Mayo Clinic does not
endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission.
Advertising & Sponsorship
Mayo Clinic Marketplace
Check out these best-sellers and special offers on books and newsletters from Mayo Clinic.
FREE TRIAL — Mayo Clinic Health Letter
4 simple steps to a joy-filled
Mayo Clinic on Arthritis
Stop osteoporosis in its tracks
The Mayo Clinic Diet Online
Subscribe to Housecall
Our general interest e-newsletter keeps you up to date on a wide variety of health topics.
Sign up now
Other Topics in Patient Care & Health Info
Diseases & Conditions A-Z
Tests & Procedures A-Z
Drugs & Supplements A-Z
& Visitor Guide
Billing & Insurance
Patient Online Services
Healthy LifestyleAdult healthIn-DepthOral health Brush up on dental
care basicsMayo Clinic Footer
ABOUT MAYO CLINIC
Legal Conditions and Terms
Terms and Conditions
Notice of Privacy Practices
Notice of Nondiscrimination
A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial
personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.org," "Mayo Clinic Healthy Living," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
© 1998-2019 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.