Ending the brush debate: Circles or straight lines?

Going in circles is a very good thing when it comes to brushing your teeth.

There are certain indisputable truths about brushing that just about everyone acknowledges as factual. Perhaps the most well known of them all is the need to brush your teeth at least two times each day. Another is to try to brush in between meals or shortly thereafter. A third "tooth truth" relates to length: Brushing should ideally last a good two minutes, cleaning the four quadrants of the mouth (i.e. upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left) for roughly 30 seconds each.

But one aspect of brushing still remains unclear: Is it best to brush in a circular motion or back and forth? How quickly should the action take place, or does really it matter if it's fast or slow?
It's about time to put this dental dispute to rest once and for all, so you can improve your technique and keep your teeth looking and feeling healthier for longer.

Circles is smarter
Generally speaking, the best way to brush is to do so in tight, concentric circles. There are a few reasons as to why. First and foremost is it forces you to slow down. All too often, such as when you're running late for work or you're eager to get to bed after a long day at the office, there's a tendency to rush the brush. Since moving your hand back and forth takes less effort and movement than in circles, the natural inclination is to brush in straight lines.

Secondly, brushing back and forth creates the risk of brushing too harshly. In an attempt to fully remove tartar buildup or food particles, your instinctual reaction may be to brush vigorously. You can run into problems, however, by doing this too frequently, which can end up peeling away enamel. Opaque and glossy, enamel is a very thin mineral layer that lines all of your teeth. It's ultimately what protects your teeth from premature weakening at the hands of food acids, starches and sugars. While enamel is extremely resilient and hard – stronger than bone, in fact – it's not impenetrable, and can actually weaken when you brush back and forth too harshly.

Brushing in small circles helps to reduce the pressure you place on your teeth, while at the same time forcing you to slow down. The next time you brush, try both methods. You'll discover for yourself that moving your hand in circles is not necessarily harder, but does entail more effort, thus slowing down the process naturally.

man brushing teeth How are you doing your brushing ?

Cleans better
Another reason why it's best to brush in circles than in lines is quality. Most people have 32 teeth. Each one is very important and serves its own function in terms of chewing and tearing food. The back-and-forth method runs the risk of glossing over some of your teeth, mainly because this method is often done far too quickly.

Moving your brush in circles in a counterclockwise motion, ideally helps to make certain that you get all the surfaces of each and every tooth, front and back. While it may be slightly more difficult to access the back of your teeth than the front, brushing in circles will help to more effectively reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

Choose an electric brush
If you've been to your dentist recently, you may have seen an electric brush display in the waiting or the exam room. That's because electric toothbrushes are extremely effective and are proven to provide a deeper, more even clean than regular toothbrushes.

You can understand why if you've used one. The bristles on an electric toothbrush move in a circular motion, which speaks to the fact that this method is preferable. The bristles move in a seamless, smooth fashion and can help your mouth feel like you've just come straight from the dentist after your biannual cleaning.

Electric and manual toothbrushesIt may be time to transition to an electric toothbrush if you haven't already.

If you don't already have an electric toothbrush, consider investing in one. They naturally cost more than regular toothbrushes, but they're made to last and are guaranteed to help you be a better brusher by doing it regularly. The added advantage of an electric toothbrush is you don't have to move your hand in a circular motion. While you can if you want, it's easier to simply move the toothbrush from one surface to the next. Let your toothbrush do the rest.

Many electric toothbrushes also have a built-in timer. After every 30 seconds or so, you'll get an alert often indicated by a beeping sound that the half-minute is over and it's time to move to the next quadrant.

Whether you're looking to improve your brushing habits, technique or want to schedule your biannual checkup, contact us at City Dentists. We're happy to help.