Harvard Health Letter

Brushing up on brushing

Who needs to be advised on how to brush their teeth? More of us than you might think. Seven suggestions on the right way to clean your teeth.

Toothbrushing may be the most ingrained of all health habits. We take a toothbrush with us when we travel. Most people can't imagine getting through a day without brushing at least once and probably twice. And there's apparently enough money in it to make expensive advertising campaigns worthwhile. Imagine if other health habits — exercise, eating whole grains, getting enough sleep — had the ad budgets of Crest or Colgate?

But just because we do something often doesn't mean we do it right — and there's lots of bad brushing going on. An inadequate job leaves behind the bacteria-laden plaque — the whitish stuff that collects in between teeth and near the gum line — that causes cavities and gum disease.

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