Are You Damaging Your Gums With Your Electric Toothbrush? Bellevue, WA Family Dentist Explains
Updated: Sep 11
Here at Bellevue Park Dental, we’ve seen it all – and that includes people who have caused permanent damage to their gums or teeth by using electric toothbrushes incorrectly. A surprising number of people don’t use electric toothbrushes properly, and we’re here to help people learn the correct, safe way to use your electric toothbrush.
Here are a few common mistakes we see people make when using electric toothbrushes:
Not brushing for long enough.
Just like with a manual toothbrush, you should be brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day with an electric toothbrush. If you use them the right way, electric toothbrushes can clean your teeth more thoroughly compared with manual toothbrushes, but not necessarily any faster. If you don’t brush for the full 2 minutes, you are likely leaving behind cavity-causing bacteria and plaque on your teeth. Most electric toothbrushes have built-in timers, so don’t rush and take your time brushing for the full 2 minutes.
Scrubbing back and forth.
Your electric toothbrush does most of the work for you, so don’t scrub! Scrubbing back and forth with an electric toothbrush can irritate and wear away at your gums over time, resulting in receding gums. Instead, simply guide your toothbrush along your teeth at a 45 degree angle to your gums – the ideal angle for sweeping away plaque from the gum line.
Using too much pressure.
There’s no need to press down on your teeth with your toothbrush, and pressing too hard can actually cause permanent damage to your dental enamel and gums. Let the toothbrush glide across the surfaces of your teeth, and it will do a great job of thoroughly cleaning your teeth.
A common myth is that electric toothbrushes clean between your teeth, so flossing isn’t necessary. This is simply not true! Electric toothbrush bristles cannot reach in between your teeth any more than manual toothbrushes can. Only flossing can effectively clean and sweep away cavity- and bad breath-causing bacteria and food particles from between your teeth. If you’re not flossing, you’re not cleaning nearly 40% of your teeth’s surfaces – so remember to floss!
How to Properly Use an Electric Toothbrush
Our step-by-step tutorial on how to use your electric toothbrush correctly:
Step 1: Place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle tilted towards your gums, and turn on your toothbrush.
Step 2: Focusing on one quadrant (upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left sections of your mouth) at a time, guide your toothbrush along the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. Each quadrant should take about 30 seconds to complete. An easy way to think about it is 10 seconds each for the fronts of your teeth, another 10 seconds for the backs of your teeth, and another 10 seconds for the chewing surfaces of your teeth.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 on the remaining 3 quadrants of your mouth.
Step 4: Rinse your toothbrush with water, then brush your tongue (to clean away bad breath causing bacteria).
Step 5: Rinse your mouth and toothbrush with water again, and you’re done!
When used correctly, electric toothbrushes are very effective at removing plaque from your teeth and along the gum line. They’re also great for people with limited mobility and fun for kids to use. Whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, just remember to brush your teeth thoroughly and gently, for 2 minutes twice a day!
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