How to brush and floss correctly

Brian Maurer
April 12, 2021
Hygiene Tips and Recommendations
minute read

We all know that we are supposed to brush our teeth twice a day and floss, but two recent studies found that 90% of Swedish adults weren’t brushing correctly, leading to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease. Incorrect brushing and flossing can also cause unnecessary pain and bleeding, making us more likely to avoid performing them. This guide will explain how to adjust your technique to make it more effective and less painful.

Before we cover the common mistakes and correct techniques for brushing, let’s quickly review why we brush and floss in the first place.

Why we brush and floss

We each have a community of bacteria that live in our mouths, known as our Oral Microbiome. When certain “bad” bacteria build up on our teeth and tongue, they begin to wreak havoc in our mouth. Some of these species produce acid that erodes the enamel in our teeth and causes cavities or tooth loss. Others burrow into our gums and cause inflammation that leads to gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis. It usually also produces compounds containing an unpleasant odor.

The goal of brushing and flossing is to remove any leftover food particles that these harmful bacteria can feed on and remove the bacteria hiding in our gum lines. The gum-line bacteria are anaerobic, meaning they cannot survive in environments with oxygen, so we just need to raise them above our gum lines to kill them.

Proper brushing

The first step in proper brushing is to make sure you have the correct toothbrush and toothpaste.

Bristle Strength?

For nearly everyone, the correct toothbrush should have soft or extra-soft bristles. It doesn’t take much force to remove the food particles and bacteria, and using too much pressure or a medium-or-hard bristled toothbrush may actually cause more damage to our enamel.

Electric or Manual?

Research has shown that both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective, so typically the most effective brush is whichever you consistently enjoy using.


Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride. Fluoride has the dual benefit of reducing harmful bacteria buildup while also strengthening our teeth’s enamel. The fluoride particles stick to our teeth during brushing and are incorporated into our teeth to make them stronger. The belief that low-grade fluoride is toxic is a myth and has been disproven by numerous studies.

Now that we have the correct toothbrush and toothpaste let’s cover the optimal technique for brushing.

How to brush correctly

Common brushing mistakes

Proper Flossing

The majority of us avoid flossing daily (with 20% avoiding entirely), and one-third of people say they would rather sit in gridlock traffic than floss. This is an issue because brushing only cleans ~60% of your mouth, and flossing picks up the remaining 40%. Flossing has been shown to reduce cavities and gum disease (and lying to the dentist about how often you floss).

The good news is that if you hate flossing because of bleeding or pain, you are probably doing it wrong. When appropriately done, flossing should be painless and prevent gum bleeding over time by reducing inflammation.

How to floss correctly

Here’s how to floss correctly with the C-Shape technique:

Common Flossing mistakes

At Bristle, we test your saliva and give you a report of your microbiome and disease risk with personalized recommendations designed to work best for you.

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