Whether you're running late in the morning or too tired to keep your eyes open at night, it's easy to let oral hygiene be the first thing to go. If you've ever found yourself questioning really how often you need to brush your teeth, your dentist was right: At least twice a day, every day, according to the American Dental Association. Sorry.
Brushing your teeth after a meal helps remove food and plaque before they can build up and lead to problems like gum disease and cavities (not to mention bad breath and a not-so-white smile), according to The Mayo Clinic.
It's important to remember that twice a day is a minimum — because of the bacteria, foods loaded with sugar are even harder on teeth, so it's worth your while to give your teeth a brush after an especially sugary snack. (There's a reason that Halloween is a dentist's worst nightmare.) The Mayo Clinic also reccomends waiting to brush for 30 minutes after eating or drinking something acidic to avoid damaging your enamel.
As far as how long, you should be aiming to brush for two minutes each time, says the American Dental Association. What's more, you need to be sure you're brushing correctly. They advise using your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward your gums to gently clean the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue. Hey, if you're gonna spend the time to brush your teeth, might as well do it the right way. Invest in an quality electric toothbrush for a deeper clean (and a little less required effort.)
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush, $189.95, target.com
But wait! You've always brushed your teeth once a day, and you've never had so much as one teeny cavity? Let me regale you with a little tale here. I, too, wasn't very concerned with my oral hygiene — until I had to be. After a year of traveling and being totally lazy about taking care of my chompers, I was informed by my dentist that I had my first seven (seven!!!) cavities at the ripe age of 21.
Oral B Complete Satin Floss, $4.27, jet.com
I was horrified and embarrassed, and you can bet I've never made that mistake again. (Two years later, going more than a night without flossing is almost panic-inducing.) My point? Your teeth can turn on you at any time, and as you age, you may not be able to get away with subpar brushing and flossing like you used to. Trust me on this one — it's not worth it to skimp out on QT with your toothbrush.
Four minutes isn't even .003 percent of your day, so it's time to brush up your skills and show off that healthy smile with pride. Twice a day, people!
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Images: Isla Murray; Courtesy of brands