Search IconSearch
December 12, 2022/Health Conditions/Oral Health

How to Properly Brush Your Teeth

It’s all about choosing the right toothbrush and hitting a 45-degree angle

Person brushing their teeth with an electric toothbrush.

Brushing your teeth is such a commonplace activity that you probably don’t think much about your technique. But as it turns out, technique matters — a lot! Brushing your teeth the right way can keep them clean enough to ward off cavities and other dental issues, while brushing them incorrectly can actually damage them.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Periodontist Sasha Ross, DMD, MS, explains why it’s so important to use the right brushing technique — and what, exactly, that technique entails.

Why the right technique matters

Have you ever used a wet paper towel to wipe down your kitchen counter instead of spraying it down with disinfectant? Yeah, it’s kinda like that. A quick swipe over your teeth just won’t do the trick.

When you brush your teeth the right way, you get your teeth as clean as you possibly can, which does wonders for your oral health. “Taking care of your oral health can impact your overall health,” Dr. Ross says. “And beyond that, feeling confident about your smile goes so far, both socially and professionally.”

Learn the right way to brush your teeth

Here’s what you need to know about the correct way to brush:

  • Get your angle right: “The idea is to angle your brush at 45 degrees to the gum,” Dr. Ross says. “Where the gum meets the tooth, angle your toothbrush downward and use short, overlapping strokes.”
  • Don’t overdo it: There’s no need to scrub! In fact, brushing too hard can cause damage to your teeth and gums. Use gentle pressure and trust your toothbrush to do the job it was made to do.
  • Hit every side of the tooth: As the saying goes, leave no stone unturned — or, in this case, no tooth unbrushed. Be sure to get every side of your teeth, including the cheek side, the biting side and the inside near your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

Stay away from hard bristles

You might not have spent much time picking out your toothbrushes in the past, but now’s the time to start. In particular, pay attention to the kind of bristles you buy. Toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads come in soft-, medium- and hard-bristle varieties.

“Hard toothbrushes are the best at removing plaque, but they also remove part of your tooth structure,” Dr. Ross explains.

In other words, they can’t differentiate between the bad stuff (plaque) and the good stuff (your teeth and gums themselves). Hard bristles can erode your tooth enamel, which may lead to cavities, and wear away at your gum tissue, which can cause gum recession.

“They’re too abrasive,” she adds, “so it’s best to stay away from them and stick with soft or sensitive bristles instead.”

Choose a fluoridated toothpaste

The toothpaste aisle is full of options: Ones that claim to support gum health, decrease sensitivity, whiten your teeth or prevent cavities. But Dr. Ross says that for the most part, their ingredients are the same.


“To treat and prevent cavities, the most important thing is that you use a toothpaste that’s fluoridated,” she says. “You should also stay away from toothpastes with a lot of baking soda, which are very abrasive.”

Traditional vs. electric toothbrush: Does it matter?

“Electric toothbrushes are what I recommend, as studies show that they do a better job than manual ones,” Dr. Ross advises.

A 2021 study found that electric toothbrushes removed more plaque from molars than manual toothbrushes did, though it showed no difference in removing plaque from incisors. And a study from 2022 found that after 12 weeks of using an electric toothbrush, 86% of participants showed reduced plaque and gum bleeding.

There are two main brands of electric toothbrushes on the market today:

  • Oral-B by Braun® uses oscillating-rotating technology (which basically means that it spins to clean) and in 2005, was the first electric toothbrush shown to work better than a manual toothbrush. “The brush head is circular, so it can get some of those hard-to-reach areas without gagging you,” Dr. Ross notes.
  • Philips Sonicare® works with sonic technology, using ultrasound and sonic waves to vibrate as you brush. It has a more oval-shaped head and some models are even Bluetooth-enabled, sending your brushing information to a smartphone app so that you can see which spots you’ve missed.

“Each company says their technology cleans better than the other one, but the truth is that we don’t have any recent studies to confirm one way or another,” Dr. Ross says.

How long should you brush your teeth?

You should brush your teeth two times a day for two minutes at least one of the times. It’s easy to keep track of that timeframe if you’re using an electric toothbrush, as most of them have a timer that tells you when your two minutes are up.

But you may need to brush more than twice a day, depending on your eating habits. “If you’re eating multiple small meals throughout the day, you need to be brushing your teeth more often to prevent cavities,” Dr. Ross warns. And don’t forget to floss!


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person applying teeth whitening strip to their teeth
July 15, 2024/Oral Health
Are Teeth Whiteners Safe and Worth Trying?

At-home products like whitening toothpaste, rinses and strips can bring bright results

Smiling person with white teeth applying toothpaste to toothbrush
July 11, 2024/Oral Health
Brighten Your Smile: How To Get Whiter Teeth

A variety of products can be effective at removing stains on teeth

Person blowing nose, surrounded by medicines and home remedies
May 30, 2024/Primary Care
Why Do I Keep Getting Sick?

Stress and unhealthy habits can lead to more colds, but taking some precautions may help you stay well

Person pulling bottom lip down to show mouth ulcer
May 28, 2024/Oral Health
Is It a Canker Sore or Cancer? Look for These Signs

Non-cancerous ulcers usually heal within a few days or weeks — if it’s sticking around, it’s time to get it checked

Person holding cup, with larger tongue covered in thrush
May 14, 2024/Oral Health
How To Get Rid of Thrush: 8 Remedies

From baking soda to lemon juice, you probably have several home remedies in your fridge that can help with this fungal infection

Person in dentist chair getting an exam by a dental provider
May 6, 2024/Oral Health
The Dangerous Trend of DIY Teeth Shaving

Keep the nail file out of your mouth and leave any tooth shaving up to your dentist

Parent helping toddler brush their teeth while in the bathroom
March 13, 2024/Oral Health
Tips for Preventing Cavities in Children

Help and encourage them to brush and floss regularly, limit sugary foods and get routine dental checkups

person leaning over sink brushing teeth
March 7, 2024/Oral Health
What Do Your Hormones Have To Do With Your Oral Health?

Estrogen and progesterone changes throughout the month — and throughout your life — can make you more prone to dental health concerns

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims