Dental expert says NHS advice to scrub for two minutes at a time may not be enough

It brings a brighter smile and banishes bad breath but is two minutes of brushing twice a day enough? A dental expert says people should instead consider brushing for up to four minutes twice a day to get rid of the most of the teeth and gum harming plaque

Have we all been brushing our teeth wrong? Dental expert says NHS advice to scrub for two minutes at a time may not be enough

  • Brits should bump up brushing to 4 min twice a day to get rid of the most plaque
  • However, those who brush more than twice a day could do more harm than good 
  • 25% of Brits fail to brush twice a day and almost 1 in 3 suffer from tooth decay










The staple advice of brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day may be wrong, a dental expert has said. 

Instead, brushing your teeth for four minutes at a time is better because it removes more plaque. 

That is according to Dr Josefine Hirschfeld, a lecturer in restorative dentistry at the University of Birmingham. 

She also claimed brushing more than twice a day could actually do more harm than good. 

It brings a brighter smile and banishes bad breath but is two minutes of brushing twice a day enough? A dental expert says people should instead consider brushing for up to four minutes twice a day to get rid of the most of the teeth and gum harming plaque

HOW TO USE AN ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH

  • Place toothpaste on the brush head 
  • Hold the brush at a 45° angle
  • Turn on the electric brush and move it from tooth-to-tooth
  • Guide the brush along the front, back and chewing surfaces of each tooth
  • Hold the brush over each surface of every tooth for several seconds 
  • Do not apply too much pressure or scrub. Just guide the brush over each tooth 
  • Continue for around two minutes to ensure each tooth is clean 
  • When finished, rinse the brush head with water and allow it to dry

Source: Oral-B 

This is because excessive brushing, particularly with toothbrushes with hard bristles and using abrasive toothpastes can wear away at the protective enamel of the teeth and damaging the gums. 

Since the 1970s Britons have been told to brush for around two minutes and this is the guidance for that the NHS promotes for healthy teeth and gums. 

But more recent studies have suggested this may not be enough to give you good dental hygiene.  

Dr Hirschfeld said while studies show two minutes of brushing leads to good plaque reduction, brushing for longer was shown to remove more.

Plaque is the sticky, colourless or pale yellow film that forms on teeth and is made of bacteria that live in your mouth. If not dealt with, a plaque build-up can lead to tooth decay or gum disease. 

‘Current evidence suggests that spending more time brushing – each time you brush – leads to cleaner teeth,’ she wrote in The Conversation. 

‘This longer brushing time means we can more effectively clean our teeth and get those hard-to-reach places.’

However, Dr Hirschfeld warned those who brush three or more times a day could be damaging their teeth. 

‘Be careful not to brush too often (such as more than two times a day) and avoid brushing hard or using abrasive toothpastes and brushes, as this can also cause damage to our teeth and gums,’ she said. 

And the impact may go further than your mouth. Some studies have linked poor oral hygiene to debilitating health conditions like arthritis and dementia.

Oral health in the UK was thrust into the spotlight after it was revealed one in four brits were forced to DIY dentistry during the Covid lockdown which forced many dentists to close their doors. 

Dental health charity, The Oral Health Foundation, says about a quarter of Brits do not brush twice a day, and almost a third (31 per cent) suffer from tooth decay. 

In the US about 90 per cent of adults have had at least one cavity.  

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