Timing Is Everything When It Comes to Your Mouth

If there is one thing that all dentists universally agree on it’s that you should brush your teeth for two minutes every time you pick up a brush. In fact, I’ve never heard a dentist suggest anything otherwise – or my mom, for that matter. It seems like yesterday I was eight-years old standing in the bathroom with my mom peeking her head around the door and reminding me that I had to keep going until I’d brushed for a full two minutes. It seemed like a pain at the time, but it’s probably the reason I still have all my teeth!

Unfortunately, most of us are in far too much of a rush to get out of the door in the morning to make sure that we’re taking proper care of our teeth and gums. I’d be surprised if more than 10% of the population is brushing their teeth for the required two minutes every time. I’m just as guilty as the next guy, and don’t get me started on flossing!

The Two Minute Warning

For the NFL fans reading this article you’re probably more likely to associate the two minute warning with the last two minutes of either half of a football game, but what I’m actually referring to here is the warning your dentist gives you if you don’t brush for two minutes every time. At least in the words of my dentist, “If you don’t want to be visiting me every couple of months to have another cavity filled, it’s best to stick to the recommended two minutes every time you brush”.

Why should we brush for two minutes? It’s all about thoroughness; in order to reach every corner of your mouth sufficiently you have to dedicate enough time to attend to all the hard-to-reach areas. After years of trial and error dentists have arrived at two minutes as the appropriate amount of time. All I can really suggest is to time yourself next time you brush your teeth. I can assure you, if you brush every area of your mouth and you brush for about two minutes, you won’t spend too much time on each area. It won’t seem like a lot of time at all.

If you have an electric toothbrush (although maybe not, if it’s a cheap one) you won’t have to worry about timing your brushing session yourself, as most of them come with a built-in timer. In some brushes the toothbrush will simply shut down after the allotted two minutes, or in others it will have a noticeable pulse to suggest to you that it’s time to stop. That’s another great reason for switching to an electric brush; it takes the guesswork out of wondering if you’ve brushed long enough.

Four Quadrants, Not Four Quarters

If we stick with the American football example, your brushing session should be divided into four sections as is a football game. In the NFL they call it quarters, but dentists like to refer to the four quadrants of your mouth. They suggest that you should brush in each quadrant of your mouth for 30 seconds before moving on to the next one. This ensures that you reach all areas of your mouth to the best of your abilities.

As is the case with two-minute timers, the best electric toothbrushes also have built-in timers to indicate when it’s time to switch quadrants. Normally after 30 seconds your brush will pulse gently to let you know it’s time to move to the next quadrant, and it will continue to do this until you’ve completed all four quadrants. Again, this is something that’s exclusively found in electric toothbrushes and is another reason that they are a better choice than traditional manual toothbrushes.

Until I discovered electric toothbrushes I really didn’t pay much attention to making sure I brushed inside each quadrant equally. If you did, great, but I’d be willing to bet that most people are very much like me. Now I think about the two-minute drill and the quadrants of my mouth every time I brush my teeth.

I’m All In

They say that educating yourself by learning new things is great for the mind, body, and soul. I’ve no doubt this is true, but in the case of brushing your teeth for two minutes I don’t think it’s really a matter of education for most adults; it’s more a matter of re-education. We all know what we’re supposed to do – it’s just that we don’t always want to do it. If the only reason you buy an electric toothbrush is because you like the idea of a built-in timer that can remind you to brush your teeth for the right amount of time, I don’t think it’s a waste of money.

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