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Join Northland Dental Group in unpacking all you need to know about the basics of brushing your teeth as part of your overall routine to keep your mouth and body healthy. The process of brushing your teeth will change throughout your life but the basics remain the same. Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day, for 2 minutes, using a fluoride toothpaste. It is also important to not forget about cleaning between your teeth.


To ensure you’re brushing correctly make sure you have the right tools. You will need a toothbrush, electric or manual, and a fluoride toothpaste. You should look to purchase a toothbrush with soft bristles, and replace it every three months, so the toothbrush maintains its effectiveness.

Pairing your toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste is the best choice for both children and adults. Place a ‘pea-sized’ amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush for older children and adults and only smear the paste on the bristles for infants and young children. Toothbrushing should be done morning and night, for two minutes each time. This means spending approximately 30 seconds brushing each corner (known as a quadrant) of the mouth. Brushing your teeth at night should be the last thing you do before bed, with no food or drink after brushing.

The technique used to brush your teeth is very important to make sure you access and clean all tooth surfaces. Following a routine each time you brush can help you ensure all surfaces of the teeth accessible to your toothbrush are reached every time you brush.

Do not apply too much pressure when brushing. This may cause damage to the tooth surfaces and cause your toothbrush bristles to become worn quicker. Toothbrush bristles that have fanned-out or become worn can lead to less effective tooth brushing. One way to tell if you are applying too much pressure when brushing is if the bristles of the toothbrush head have spread out to sit outside the plastic base in less than three months. Some powered toothbrushes include a built-in pressure-sensor that will alert you when you are applying too much pressure with the toothbrush when brushing.


A step-by-step on how to brush using a manual toothbrush.

Guide provided by the Australian dental association

1. Wet your brush bristles with a small amount of water.

2. Put a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a pea) on the head of the toothbrush.

3. Insert the tooth brush into your mouth and place it at a 45-degree angle to your gums with the brush bristles split evenly over the teeth and gums. Move the toothbrush gently in small circular or back-forward motions, moving around the mouth to reach all tooth surfaces. Consider following the same brushing routine every day, for example beginning at the top right hand side teeth and then moving to the left followed by the lower left teeth and moving around to the right.

4. Turn the tooth brush as required to reach the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth.

5. Brush all the way down to the gums to remove the bacteria sitting on the teeth in these areas. If it is not removed when brushing, it can cause the gums to become inflamed where they can appear puffy and may bleed when stimulated.

6. After brushing, spit out the excess tooth paste but do not rinse your mouth with water. This allows a thin layer of the fluoride toothpaste to sit on the teeth for longer, increasing protection.


A step-by-step on how to brush using an electric toothbrush. Guide provided by the Australian dental association

The technique for using an electric toothbrush is similar to using a manual toothbrush. There are two main types of electric toothbrushes in Australia - oscillating-rotating and sonic electric toothbrushes.

The brush head of an oscillating-rotating electric toothbrush is small and round. The brush head rotates and vibrates to break up and remove the plaque and bacteria on the surfaces of the teeth. In comparison, the sonic electric toothbrush vibrates from side to side. The brush head appears similar in shape to a manual toothbrush.

The below steps are based on using an oscillating-rotating electric toothbrush. Follow them to get the most out of your electric toothbrush.

1. Prepare your tooth brush by rinsing the bristles with water and add a pea- sized amount of toothpaste.

2. Place the tooth brush head into your mouth and turn the tooth brush on. Hold the toothbrush in place and move it slowly to clean one tooth at a time. Follow the surfaces of your teeth to reach all surfaces. Hold the brush head in place for a few seconds against each tooth before moving on to the next one.

3. Brush with a light pressure. Some electric toothbrushes have a pressure sensor that will provide an alert when too much pressure is applied.

4. After brushing, spit out the excess toothpaste but do not rinse your mouth with water. This allows the fluoride paste to sit on the teeth for longer, increasing protection.

When brushing, consider following the same routine every day. For example, begin by brushing the teeth at the top right hand corner of the mouth, then move to the top left teeth followed by the lower left teeth and finally moving around to the right. Brush each corner for approximately 30 seconds each, for a total of two minutes.

“Some ways to keep track of the two-minute period is to use a sand timer, phone timer, play a song or use a toothbrushing phone app. Some powered toothbrushes have built-in timers that can help you to keep track of time when brushing.”


Brushing your teeth regardless of whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush is the foundation of good oral care and preventing diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease. Both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective at removing plaque and bacteria from the surfaces of the teeth.

Whilst electric and manual toothbrushes each have their own benefits, a review of studies showed there are benefits of using electric toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes. The study showed electric toothbrushes removed plaque and gum inflammation more than manual toothbrushes in the short and long term.

Electric toothbrushes may also be effective for individuals whose ability to handle a manual toothbrush has been affected.

Research has shown that on average, people remove only 27% of dental plaque from the teeth with 1 minute of brushing with a manual toothbrush. In 2 minutes, only 42% of dental plaque has been removed. However, if using a thorough brushing technique as described above, you can achieve extremely effective brushing with a manual toothbrush.

Your dentist may recommend using an electric toothbrush if you have trouble holding and controlling a manual toothbrush, have braces or gum disease.


A baby’s teeth can be affected by tooth decay from the time they appear in the mouth, so it is important to be cleaning them from the very beginning and be proactive in teaching your children good dental habits. Following these steps can help to ensure their teeth are healthy and strong.

Children’s teeth, like adults, should be brushed twice daily, ideally in the morning and then at night as the last thing that is done before bed with no foods or drinks after. Brushing should go for 2 minutes each time which can be made more fun by playing a song or using a phone app that has a 2-minute timer to ensure the correct length of brushing and provides positive reinforcement.

Look to use a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Electric toothbrushes can be introduced from 3 years of age. Some electric toothbrushes come with an in-built 2-minute timer to make brushing for the recommended amount of time easy.

Children should be assisted by their parents when brushing and flossing until around the age of 8 or 9. At this age, their physical dexterity is further developed allowing them to have better control of their toothbrush or floss. A good reference for this time is when your child starts using a pen at school, instead of a pencil.


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