It’s drilled into us from childhood: brush your teeth twice a day, but what’s the best way to actually execute that task? Turns out, that’s such a tricky question, not even dentists can agree.
According to a study out of the UK, dental associations, toothpaste companies, and public health officials are all giving different advice on how to brush your teeth.
While everyone agrees that brushing is good, and flossing is better, there is a lot of conflicting information about brushing technique, what type of toothpaste to use, and how long you should spend brushing your teeth.
“The public needs to have sound information on the best method to brush their teeth,” says Aubrey Sheiham, Emeritus Professor of Dental Public Health and author of the study. “If people hear one thing from a dental association, another from a toothbrush company and something else from their dentist, no wonder they are confused about how to brush. In this study we found an unacceptably inconsistent array of advice from different sources.”
The one thing dentists do know for sure is that there’s little benefit to rushing off after a meal to brush your teeth. As Sheiham notes, “There is little point in brushing after eating sweets or sugary drinks to prevent tooth decay. It takes bacteria from food about two minutes to start producing acid, so if you brush your teeth a few minutes after eating sugary foods, the acid will have damaged the enamel.” Well, at least that’s settled.
So what is the best way to clean your teeth? According to this study, no one knows. Surprisingly, little research has been done exploring different brushing techniques, so scientifically speaking, dentists aren’t sure of the optimal method. For now, it’s probably best just to make sure you floss and brush your teeth at least twice a day, following your dentist’s instructions.