Dental Experts Disagreed on Best Way to Brush

How long and how often to brush questioned in recent research

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The everyday task of grabbing a toothbrush and some toothpaste and cleaning your teeth may not be as simple as it seems.

New research from the United Kingdom found differences in the tooth brushing guidelines of professional dental organizations around the globe.

"Talk to your dentist about keeping your teeth and gums healthy."

The study was written by Aubrey Sheiham, professor emeritus of dental public health at University College London in the UK, with co-author John Wainwright of the same institution.

Faced with conflicting advice from dental professionals, the researchers set out to find the most effective way to brush teeth.

To start, they reviewed recommendations from dental associations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

The researchers also reached out to toothbrush and toothpaste manufacturers for their input. Dental textbooks and other dental literature were also included.

The team then analyzed all the information related to brushing technique, movement and positioning.

The modified Bass technique was recommended most often, coming from 19 sources. The modified Bass technique involves holding the bristle horizontally and brushing in small circles.

Eleven sources, the next highest, recommended the traditional Bass technique, which focuses on the gum area.

In terms of brushing frequency, 42 sources encouraged brushing twice daily. Only one suggested three times each day.

The most common duration suggestion was two to three minutes.

“The main finding from this study was the wide diversity between recommendations on tooth brushing techniques, how often people should brush their teeth and for how long,” the authors wrote.

The authors wrote that the variation “should be a matter of concern for the dental profession and dental regulatory bodies. In an era of evidence-based dentistry, such a gap in knowledge is surprising.”

The authors also found that simpler brushing techniques, as compared to the Bass types, are recommended for children — despite some evidence the Bass types were the most effective.

“This presents a dilemma,” the authors wrote. “Should a more complex brushing technique be taught at a younger age?”

They concluded that more detailed and larger scale research should examine the brushing techniques, particularly in regards to age.

The authors did identify an effective brushing method.

"Brush gently with a simple horizontal scrubbing motion, with the brush at a forty-five degree angle to get to the dental plaque," Sheiham said in a press release. "To avoid brushing too hard, hold the brush with a pencil grip rather than a fist. This simple method is perfectly effective at keeping your gums healthy."

The study was published Aug. 8 in the peer-reviewed British Dental Journal.

Review Date: 
August 7, 2014
Last Updated:
August 11, 2014