How long should I spend cleaning my teeth?

Hygiene Basics: The “Bass Method”

Brushing your teeth should be done systematically. Total time it should take is about 2 minutes.

Brush minimally 2 times a day, once after waking up and once before bed. If you split the mouth into 4 quadrants, then it should take approximately 30 seconds per quadrant. The proper position of the brush head is along the gum line, half on the gums and half on the teeth, pointing the bristles toward the gums at a 45 degree angle.

  • Use a gentle vibrating motion to move along, covering 3 to 4 teeth at a time.
  • Don’t forget to brush the back sides of teeth in the same manner, as these are often forgotten.
  • For the back of front teeth, hold the brush vertically for better access.
  • Finally brush the top surfaces of the teeth and the tongue.
  • Always use a soft toothbrush to avoid wearing away precious enamel.

This method focuses on the gum line and in between teeth, where most plaque forms. If done correctly it is a the most effective way to maintain the health of your gums, bone and teeth coupled with flossing, use of mouthwashes and regular dental checkups.

Don’t be worried if at the start of this regimen your gums experience some bleeding. It means you are on the way to obtaining a healthy mouth. After a week or so, you will notice less or no bleeding at all and will feel your gums.

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Try to brush your teeth after all meals, but the minimum amount of time you should brush your teeth is two minutes at least twice daily (morning and night). In addition, try to floss at least once daily.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Two minutes. That's right, 120 seconds. Waiting in traffic, two minutes seems like an eternity. Playing in bed, two minutes feels like a flash. At the sink, two minutes is the time you need to spend brushing your teeth in order to clean them adequately and reduce plaque.

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The ADA recommends brushing two times a day, two minutes each. Remember 2 x 2. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth allowing you to reach all areas easily. Also, be sure to replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
I'll add to what my colleagues here have said - two minutes is your target. There really is no particular "order" in where you should brush first -- do whatever is comfortable for you. Some people like to do it in quadrants (top left front, then top left back, then top right front, etc.) -- some people like to do all front, then all back -- however you do it, spread that two minutes out equally, and get everywhere.
You should brush your teeth for at least two minutes, and ideally, for three minutes. By contrast, most people brush for less than a minute -- not long enough to get teeth clean and scrub off the bacteria that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. If you're not sure how long you're brushing for, set a timer. Or brush to a song on the radio (start at the beginning) and keep brushing until the song is over.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.