The importance of brushing for the full two minutes is an oft-repeated piece of advice that dentists give to patients, and parents give to children. But is there science to back this up? Why two minutes and not one or four? How long should you brush your teeth to maintain good oral health? The fact is, brushing your teeth correctly and thoroughly is essential for healthy teeth and gums, but it takes time ― at least two minutes.
What the Experts Say
Experts who advise on how long you should brush your teeth usually recommend a minimum of two minutes, twice daily. A study published in the British Dental Journal examined 66 sources of dental information from around the world and found that a significant portion of them (26) advised brushing for two minutes. The remaining sources offered a number of different recommendations, all longer than two minutes, with some recommending brushing for more than three minutes. The American Dental Association backs the two-minute rule, and runs a campaign called 2min2x to help parents get the message across to children. The Academy of General Dentistry, however, advises dentists to tell patients to brush their teeth for as long as a popular song plays on the radio, or about three to four minutes.
What the Science Says
Research supports the recommendation to brush for at least two minutes. It seems obvious that the longer you brush your teeth, the more plaque you remove, and now a study published in The Journal of Dental Hygiene backs this up. The study analyzed the effect of brushing time on plaque removal across a range of time periods, from 30 seconds to three minutes. The researchers found that patients who brushed for 45 seconds removed 26 percent less plaque than patients who brushed for two minutes. The difference in plaque removal when comparing shorter and longer brushing times was even wider: according to the study, brushing for 30 seconds removes 55 percent less plaque than brushing for three minutes.
Why Brushing Your Teeth Takes Two Minutes
Two minutes may feel like an awfully long time when brushing your teeth, but only if you are not doing it thoroughly. Removing food debris, plaque and bacteria from the surface of your teeth is only one step in an effective, twice-daily oral-care routine. As well as setting up home on your teeth, bacteria also coat your mouth’s interior, including the inside of your cheeks, your gums and your tongue. To reduce your risk of bad breath and cavities, you should brush these areas too. Once per day, you’ll need to spend just a little longer cleaning your teeth via flossing, because that’s also a critical step toward good oral health.
How long should you brush your teeth? As long as it takes to do a good job. For some people, two minutes is long enough, for others, it may take longer. For that clean-mouth feeling and the confidence that you are helping prevent tooth decay, the time spent is worth it.