Woman smiling showing clean teeth with a clock

We all know to always brush our teeth twice a day for healthy teeth and gums. But how long should you be brushing your teeth each time? The length of time you brush can be just as important as how often you brush.

Brushing your teeth helps keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. It can also keep your breath fresh. In addition, good dental hygiene is linked to overall good health.

Brushing your teeth removes small particles of food and microbes which collect on the surface of our teeth to form what we refer to commonly as plaque. Excessive plaque can not only be unsightly but can lead to a variety of problems, including inflammation, gingivitis, and tooth decay. The amount of time spent brushing is linked directly to the amount of plaque removed from the surface of teeth.

How Long To Brush

So how long should you spend brushing your teeth each day to successfully prevent plaque accumulation? Most dentists recommend brushing twice per day for at least 2 minutes. This advice has been around as the standard for many decades and is based on studies done in the 1970s.

Some more recent evidence suggests that brushing for longer, up to 3-4 minutes each time you brush, might be better for removing plaque from tooth and gum surfaces. If you use good technique, brushing for at least 2 minutes should be effective, although brushing for slightly longer might be ideal.

Can you brush your teeth too much?

It is conceivable that you could brush too often and damage tooth enamel. However, this is rare since most people overestimate brushing time. This can be a bigger concern if you brush too rigorously and with a harder-bristled brush. To find that happy medium, most dentists recommend brushing 2-3 times per day for between 2-3 minutes.

Should I Time Myself Brushing My Teeth?

It is a good idea to get in the habit of brushing your teeth for at least 2-3 minutes. Recent studies have shown most people significantly underestimate the amount of time they spend brushing by as much as 50%. Timing yourself is a smart way to make sure you are effectively brushing your teeth

  • Cell phone timer- Most people these days don’t even go into the bathroom without their cell phone handy. Every smartphone has a clock and even a timer feature. Simply set a 2-3 minute timer be sure you are spending the right amount of time brushing.
  • Listen to a Song- If using a timer seems like no fun, a simple way to time yourself brushing is to play a favorite song while you brush. Many of our favorite songs are in the 3-minute range and are a perfect method to time your brushing.
  • Special Toothbrushes- Many electric toothbrushes (and even some manual ones) offer battery-powered timers built right in. This is a great option for kids, and many of these toothbrushes light up and can be exciting to use. Just make sure you are supervising your little ones, so they focus on brushing effectively.

Other Common Brushing Mistakes

Time and frequency isn’t the only thing that results in effective tooth brushing. There are a few other things you can do to make the most of your 2 minutes twice a day!

  • Use a soft-bristled brush and a gentle motion. It might be counterintuitive, but using a stiffer bristled brush and scrubbing too hard can damage teeth and be less effective.
  • Avoid brushing within an hour of eating acidic foods.
  • Replace your toothbrush about every 3 months or when you start to see the bristles become misshapen or frayed, whichever comes first.
  • Flossing after you brush is actually not the most effective way to clean material from between teeth. It is better to floss before you brush, at least once per day.