Tooth Brushing: Back to Basics

Article by Dr Raha Sepehrara

Toothbrushing Back to Basics

So, what do I use? When? How?

Hot questions! It changes all the time. There are more and more types of brushes, toothpastes and other tricky things being made all the time. So let’s keep it as simple as possible!

The big question is, what do you like to use? The most important thing is that you are comfortable with what you use, because then you are more likely to use it frequently and effectively.

Manual Toothbrush:

  • Ensure it has a nice small head and is all bristle (no fancy plastic filaments).
  • A small head will allow you easier access to those teeth right at the back.
  • Try to brush one tooth at a time, be methodical and work your way around nice and slowly.
  • Avoid scrubbing the teeth, as this will cause unnecessary wear.
  • When the bristles start to look a little worn – treat your teeth to a new one!

Electric Toothbrush:

  • The principal is the same, however you have to accept that the electric brush is designed to do all the work for you.
  • You may feel slightly lazy if you are used to a manual brush. The key thing when using an electric brush is to move nice and slowly from tooth to tooth. Try not to be in a rush and allow yourself plenty of time.
  • Simply concentrate on the positioning of the brush; ensure that it is positioned around the gum margin. Use a mirror – it can make all the difference just being able to see what you are doing!
  • Avoid moving an electric brush the same way you would a manual brush as this too may cause excess wear to your teeth.
  • I recommend the Oral B tooth brushes because they have an oscillating and rotating movement to the head, which has been found to be very effective when removing plaque.
  • There are different model types to suit all.
  • Keep it nice and simple if it is your first time using an electric the model. I would advise the use of a 2000 or 3000.
  • If you particularly like gadgets, perhaps try the 5000 or the 6000.
  • The head I would recommend for all model types is small and round. Again it should be all bristle with none of those fancy plastic filaments. It is called the precision clean head. For those of you that have sensitive teeth, you might like to try the sensitive head – this has much softer bristles.


In terms of toothpaste, find something you like and stick to it; you should try to maintain a consistent approach to your brushing. The majority of toothpastes contain an antibacterial agent and most importantly, fluoride. The antibacterial agent will help with controlling bacteria within the mouth, safeguarding against gum disease and tooth decay. The fluoride will help to strengthen the teeth and protect the user from tooth decay. If you have sensitive teeth, you may wish to use a sensitive toothpaste. Always have a look at the ingredients on the packaging to ensure that it contains fluoride, as some of them don’t. Also, if you suffer with sensitive teeth, I would advise that you stay away from whitening toothpastes as some of them can be quite abrasive and may lead to further sensitivity.


I only really advise patients to use mouthwashes if they seem to struggle with their brushing and require an additional aid. Mouthwashes are very effective at destroying free floating bacteria. Once the bacteria have attached themselves to your teeth the most effective way of removing them is by brushing.

The basics don’t change:

  • Brush twice daily for at least two minutes, brushing every surface of every tooth.
  • Place a pea sized amount of tooth paste straight on your brush, brush each and every tooth, spit out any excess tooth paste.
  • Avoid rinsing out afterwards – leave the residue on your teeth.

There are further aids that can be used when brushing, however I think it is important to master the essential skills first and then introduce further aids when you are ready. It is important to be shown certain interdental aids to ensure that they are used correctly and safely, not causing any potential damage to your gums. A dental hygienist can advise and demonstrate certain aids. So when you next visit a dental hygienist, have a chat, tell the hygienist what you do and don’t like using and formulate a plan of action together.

I hope that this information has been helpful to you. Happy cleaning! J



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