How to brush your teeth in 6 steps: correct methods and tools

You may think that you know how to brush your teeth. You have been doing it your whole life. But there is a chance that you may be doing it wrong. And it is not a crime, there is no shame in that; you may be taught that way.

As dentistry develops, the methods of keeping your teeth clean develop with it. Depending on your teeth and gum sensitivity and your preferences, the tools you should be using for your oral hygiene also differ. It is crucial to know the correct method and the right tools for your oral hygiene for a long-lasting, sincere smile. Because when you smile, we smile.

6 steps to how to brush your teeth

Before going into detail about the correct tools for you and the correct method, let’s review the steps of cleaning together. You can put a check on them in your mind to see if you do or don’t do these steps:

  • First, start by flossing your teeth
  • Apply a smear of toothpaste on your toothbrush.
  • Begin gently brushing in up and down and circular motions.
  • Get all of the surfaces of your teeth
  • Brush your tongue
  • After waiting for a few minutes, use mouthwash

The correct method of brushing

We have reviewed the basics. At this point, it is only sensible to go into a little more detail on how to brush your teeth:

  • After applying a smear of toothpaste, place your toothbrush with soft bristles at a 45-degree angle to your gums and gently move it up and down in short strokes in a small circular motion.
  • Brush all surfaces of your teeth, front, sides, and back.
  • To clean the back of your teeth, hold your brush vertically and brush with up and down strokes.
  • Brush your tongue with your toothbrush, tongue scraper, or tongue cleaner.
  • Rinsing your mouth right after might wash away the fluoride coating from your teeth. So spitting out the excess toothpaste should be enough. 
  • Do not forget to rinse your toothbrush after you brush your teeth! 
  • After waiting for a few minutes, you can use your mouthwash. If you use it right after brushing, the fluoride from the toothpaste might be washed away.

Let’s break it down a little more. This is serious business, after all.

Up-and-down and circular motion

While brushing your teeth up and down, you should use a small circular motion along your gum line. The circular motion helps you go easy on your gums. You should be gentle while brushing this way. Otherwise, harsh brushing can cause gum diseases such as the receding of the gums. The receding of the gums then leads to the revealing of the roots of the teeth, basically giving you a hell of a time, and not in a good way.

Gentle brushing

You should always be gentle with your teeth. Yes, your enamel is the strongest part of your body. But that does not mean it cannot be harmed. If you brush too hard, you may cause harm to your enamel, and gums, and increase the risk of tooth decay. You should also avoid excessive brushing. More is not always better. Take it from Amy Santiago from Brooklyn-Nine Nine: she had 6 cavities, and she claims to be the perfect brusher of all teeth.

Gum line brushing

You must not forget about your gum line while brushing. Brushing one or two teeth at a time, gently brush your teeth. If you brush harshly, your gums might recede. If you neglect your gum line, it may cause plaque build-up and eventually can cause the formation of tartar. Get rid of all that plaque. If tartar has formed on your gum line, you should pay your dentist a well-deserved visit.

Tongue brushing

Yes, your tongue is a part of your oral hygiene. You can use a tongue scraper or a tongue cleaner. Some people prefer cleaning their tongues with their toothbrushes. Which equipment you use does not matter as long as you add tongue cleaning to your routine.

Food particles can get stuck between the tiny bumps (papillae, a.k.a taste buds) on the tongue. This causes bacteria build-up, and therefore bad breath. To avoid these from happening and not cause people to run away, do not forget to clean your tongue. We repeat: do not forget to clean your tongue. Give your breath a fresh smell and get rid of that smelly smell.

If you have bad breath when you wake up in the morning, certainly you should try this and see the difference!

Correct method for children

Children should also follow these steps to brush their teeth. They should of course use smaller toothbrushes with soft bristles and children between the ages of 3 and 6 should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. There are even edible ones available for children younger than 3 since they can swallow their toothpaste. This age group should use a very small amount of toothpaste, not more than the size of a grain of rice.

If the flavor of the toothpaste discomforts them, it eventually discourages them from brushing their teeth. As long as it is fluoridated toothpaste, they can opt for a different flavored or flavorless toothpaste. Make sure to make brushing a fun activity for them.

If your child is allergic to ingredients like fluoride, Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB), and essential oils, you should change them immediately and look for a toothpaste that does not contain such ingredients. You can consult their dentist to find the correct toothpaste for them.

How to brush your teeth after a dental operation

Of course, you should be more gentle when brushing your teeth after a dental operation. Other than that, the method of brushing is still the same as we mentioned above. After a root canal, implant, or teeth removal, you can continue this method. As for your mouthwash, try to use antiseptic ones. And do not forget to floss, without forcing it between the teeth.

How to brush your teeth with braces

Before starting to brush, rinse your mouth with water. This helps loosen the food particles stuck between your teeth and brackets.

  • Using the same 45-degree angle, gently start brushing your gum line back and forth strokes in a small circular motion.
  • After that, tilt the angle of the toothbrush to brush the top of your brackets along with your gum line for your upper braces.
  • Do the same for brushing underneath your braces.
  • Repeat the same steps for your lower braces. Make sure you also get chewing and inner surfaces.

You should take your time brushing your teeth with braces on. A minimum of 3 minutes of brushing can help you with your oral hygiene.

Flossing with braces on can be a bit of a challenge, but we strongly courage you to do so. If using a string floss is too hard for you to do and is discouraging, you can use an interdental floss (also known as an interdental brush). They are like mini microfiber dusters for your teeth. Or you can use a floss threader. Mini whips for the naughty food debris stuck between your teeth and braces.

How to brush your teeth with spacers

Spacers do not come out while brushing your teeth. Of course, if you are very careful doing so. Before starting to brush, you should rinse your mouth with water. Flossing can be a bit of an issue since it can remove the spacer from its place. So you can hold off flossing where there are spacers for as long as they are there.

FAQ about how to brush your teeth

You now know all there is to know about brushing your teeth and which tools you should use. But we know that you would like to know more. You ask, so you shall receive the answers!

Should I wet my toothbrush before brushing?

This matter is more of a preference than it is a requirement. Wetting the toothbrush before brushing softens the bristles and lubricates the toothpaste. For some people that can make the experience more convenient. And for other people, it is not a preferred method. It has little to no effect on your oral hygiene, other than motivating you to brush your teeth.

Will I be poisoned If I don’t rinse my mouth after brushing?

No, you will not be poisoned if you don’t rinse your mouth with water. Your body can tolerate that small amount of fluoride and other ingredients in the toothpaste. Also, it is not like you are going to swallow the excess toothpaste, you will spit it out. So, very small particles of toothpaste may -or may not- enter your digestive system. That amount will not poison you.

Do not encourage yourself to think that you can actually handle larger amounts of toothpaste. Please do not try to ingest any dental product. 

How often should you brush your teeth?

Your teeth need to be brushed twice a day. Brushing your teeth right after eating is not recommended. You should brush your teeth 30 to 60 minutes after eating. If you ate acidic food, it is recommended that you wait for 60 minutes before brushing, since it can cause harm to your enamel.

But there is a twist here. Should you brush before or after breakfast? Brushing your teeth before breakfast may be better for you. Especially if you are not a morning flosser, brushing right after breakfast can cause the food to stay in between the teeth. The bacteria that settled in your mouth will cling to those food particles, causing harm to your teeth. Also, brushing before breakfast can help you get rid of that morning breath, and it covers your enamel with a protective coat, defending them against acidic foods.

Also, foods like bread and dried fruits are not your enamel’s best friend. So, you would not want them stuck between your teeth with all that bacteria. Those tasty betrayers! But, if you would like to brush your teeth after breakfast, you should wait 60 minutes after eating to brush your teeth. Especially if you have had acidic food.

How long brushing your teeth supposed to last?

To remove as much dental plaque as you can, you should brush your teeth for 3 minutes. These 3 minutes do not include flossing. When it comes to oral hygiene, do not try to take shortcuts. Keep brushing in those 3 minutes. Trust us, it is worth it. Say bye-bye to bad breath and plaque.


Sharon E. Myers, D.E. Barmes, K.V. Bailey, and C.J. Sundram, World Health Organization. “Guidelines on oral health: a manual for health personnel.” (1971).

MouthHealthy – Oral Health – American Dental Association.