Teeth cleaning guide

The schedule

If you have a dental problem you should, in the first instance always telephone the dental practice that you normally attend.

If you are not registered with any dental practice then your nearest dental practice will still be able to help.

Knowing when and how often you should brush your teeth is a vital part of keeping teeth and gums clean and healthy.

Remove plaque

Plaque is the layer that coats your teeth and gums. Brushing your teeth properly and regularly is the best way to remove this and stop plaque building up. Plaque causes tooth decay and gum disease, which is why it’s so important to get rid of it through brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.

As a general rule you should be brushing your teeth twice a day. One of those times should be just before you go to sleep at night. Going to sleep with plaque on your teeth can allow plaque to calcify. Once the plaque on your teeth has calcified you can’t remove it with normal brushing, instead it will need to be removed by a dentist or hygenist.

Twice a day

In addition to brushing before bed you should brush your teeth at one other time during the day. Brushing your teeth after breakfast removes any residual food and plaque allowing you to start the day feeling fresh and clean.

When it comes to brushing your teeth remember twice a day for 2 minutes at a time. Use the timer on your phone, put a clock in your bathroom or just keep an eye on your watch.

Your dentist or hygienist will be able to advise you on your own individual brushing needs based on your own dental health, history and needs.

The toothbrush

When it comes to finding the correct toothbrush for you it’s best to keep it simple. The important thing is you are brushing all the tooth surfaces in your mouth and you are doing it twice a day.

Electric or manual

Electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective at removing plaque from your mouth, if you are brushing correctly.

Some people find it easier to clean their teeth with an electric toothbrush, this could be because they can reach further back in the mouth or because the toothbrush might let them know when they have brushed for 2 minutes, meaning they always brush for the recommended time.

The brush

When buying a toothbrush most adults should be looking for one with a small head and a compact, angled arrangement of long and short round end bristles. A toothbrush with medium or soft bristles will be fine to clean the teeth of most adults.

If you’re not sure what toothbrush matches your needs best then speak with your dentist or hygienist, they will be happy to advise you on this.

The toothpaste

It’s important to pick toothpaste with the right concentration of fluoride for your needs.


The packaging should explicitly state how much fluoride your toothpaste contains. Before making a purchase you should always check the packaging. It is recommended that adults should use a toothpaste with at least 1,350 to 1,500 parts per million (ppm) fluoride.


Children don’t need to use a specific ‘children’s toothpaste’ for brushing their teeth. It’s fine for children to use a pea size blob of family toothpaste as long as it contains 1,350-1500ppm fluoride.

Children under 6

If your child is under 6 and the dentist has never noticed any signs of tooth decay then it is fine for them to use a lower strength children’s toothpaste, but ensure this still contains at least 1,000ppm fluoride.

Children below 3 years

Children below the age of 3 only need to use a smear of toothpaste when brushing, for children aged between 3 and 6 a pea-sized blob of toothpaste will suffice. It’s important to supervise children and ensure they do not lick or eat toothpaste from the tube.

Your dentist will be able to advise if you or your child needs to use a toothpaste with a higher fluoride concentration.

The brushing

Most of us brush our teeth twice a day and while you may think your technique is working well it might not be the most efficient way to remove all the plaque from your teeth.

To properly brush your teeth you should make short strokes gently over the teeth. Remember to pay close attention to the gumline, any areas surrounding crowns, fillings or restorations and never neglect those hard to reach back teeth.

Try to split your mouth in to 4 sections and dedicate 30 seconds of your brushing time to each section. Remember to effectively clean your teeth you need to brush the outer surfaces, inner surfaces and the chewing surfaces of each tooth in your mouth.


Step 1: Place your brush at a 45 degree angle against your gumline. Gently start to brush your teeth in short circular strokes away from the gumline.

Step 2: Again using short back and forth strokes gently brush all the surfaces in your mouth, the inner, the outer and the chewing or biting surfaces of your teeth.


Once you’ve finished brushing you can spit out any excess toothpaste. After you’ve spit out the excess do not to rinse your mouth out straight away, this will wash away any fluoride left over from your toothpaste, reducing benefit to your dental health.

Don’t forget about the rest

Brushing is the first step in a good dental hygiene routine but by adding in mouthwash and flossing you’re helping your teeth and gums to be as healthy as possible.

Fluoride mouthwash

Fluoride mouthwash can be a great addition to your oral health routine but there are a few things to consider when using it, and remember all mouthwash must be alcohol free.

Don’t use it to rinse straight after brushing. Although this can feel like the best time to use mouthwash it will actually wash away any residual fluoride left on your teeth preventing it from doing any further good.

Instead you might want to consider using a fluoride mouthwash at midday, after lunch for example. Just remember not to eat or drink for 30 minutes after using a fluoride mouthwash. However, if time allows it’s better just to give your teeth a brush using a fluoride toothpaste after your midday meal.

Dental floss

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your oral hygiene routine. Not only does flossing help to dislodge any leftover food from your teeth, it can also help to remove any plaque forming along the gumline and reduce the risk of gum disease and bad breath.

Floss your teeth before brushing so that any dislodged food can be brushed out of your mouth, your dentist or hygienist will be able to show you how to floss effectively.

Step 1: Gather a long piece of floss and wrap each end around a finger on each hand leaving the length in the middle taut.

Step 2: Use the middle section and move it in between your teeth and move it up and down reaching right into the gumline each time as far as it will go.

Step 3: Move between each tooth individually and pay close attention to remove any food debris from your mouth.

There are lots of different types of dental floss such as waxed and unwaxed, floss angled to reach the back of your mouth and floss of different widths to suit different sized gaps in our teeth. Ask your dentist or hygienist which type of floss is the best for your teeth and needs.

Flossing alternatives

Instead of flossing you can use interdental brushes to reach the areas in between your teeth. If you have larger gaps in between your teeth this can be especially useful. Beware using toothpicks in between your teeth as they’re too hard and cause damage to your gums.

Your dentist should always be happy to advise you on the best methods of teeth cleaning for you.

Last updated:
04 August 2022

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