Brushing your teeth regularly is key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums and preventing periodontal (gum) diseases, but it’s also important to make sure you choose the right toothbrush for your teeth and use proper brushing techniques. Done correctly, brushing your teeth at least twice a day — in the morning and in the evening before going to bed, for at least three minutes — can help ensure long-term dental health.

“It takes time to brush effectively,” says Richard H. Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA) and a former clinical instructor at Boston University Dental School. “Most people just rush through it.” Dr. Price suggests setting a timer for three minutes and brushing and flossing until the time runs out.

How to Choose a Toothbrush

Although some ancient civilizations used frayed twigs to clean their teeth, these days toothbrushes come in a variety of manual and powered forms. And the first step to taking good care of your mouth is to choose a toothbrush that’s right for you.

“Choose a brush that has the ADA seal on the box to be sure the bristles are not too hard,” says Price, who is retired from a 35-year dental practice in Newton, Mass. “Then find one that fits comfortably in your hand and mouth. If the brush is comfortable to use, you’ll use it more often and more effectively.”

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing a toothbrush. You’ll want to pick one that:

  • Has bristles that are softer rather than harder
  • Fits your mouth size. If you have a small mouth, choose a small toothbrush and if you have a large mouth, pick a large toothbrush, says Price.
  • Is easy to use, whether it’s a powered or a manual toothbrush

Once you’ve found an appropriate toothbrush for you, you need to brush your teeth the correct way in order to maintain good oral health and keep periodontal disease at bay.

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