3 Tooth Brushing Techniques that Get the Job Done

1. Bass or Sulcular Technique

The key to preventing and controlling gum disease is brushing around and under the gumline where bacteria and plaque tend to accumulate. In the Bass method of brushing, shared by MedChrome, the toothbrush bristles reach under the gums to scrub off plaque before it hardens into tartar and causes gum disease:

  • Place the toothbrush parallel to your teeth with the bristles toward the gums.
  • Tilt the brush to a 45 degree angle and move the bristles slightly under the gumline.
  • With firm but gentle pressure, and while maintaining the bristles under the gum tissue, wiggle or vibrate the brush back and forth or use a small circular motion 15 to 20 times, before moving to the next area. The brush should cover two to three teeth at a time.
  • Brush the entire outer surface of the teeth and then continue the same technique on the tongue side.
  • To brush the insides of the front teeth, hold the toothbrush in a vertical position and use the bristles on the toe of the brush, but make sure they are getting under the gum tissue.
  • Brush the chewing surface of the molar teeth and don't forget your tongue.

2. Stillman Technique

The Stillman method of brushing is similar to the Bass technique; however, it may help clean more debris from between the teeth. The Indian Dental Association provides some helpful diagrams.

To implement this method, follow the Bass technique, but after vibrating the brush under the gum area, move the brush toward the chewing surface of the tooth and use short back-and-forth strokes.

3. Charter Technique

If you have spaces between your teeth, see exposed root surfaces or have had periodontal surgery or gum recession, your dentist may recommend the Charter method of brushing, says the Triveni Institute of Dental Sciences. This technique is also effective for people with orthodontic appliances or fixed partial dentures.

  • Place the bristles on the gumline at a 45 degree angle pointing toward the chewing surface or crown of the tooth. This position is the opposite of the Bass and Stillman technique.
  • Gently vibrate the brush for 15 to 20 counts, using short circular strokes or small back and forth motions, and then reposition the brush to the next area.
  • Move around the mouth in the same pattern, brushing all tooth surfaces, both inner and outer, as well as the chewing surfaces of the molars.


This may sound daunting, but there are modified versions of the Bass, Stillman and Charter techniques. You simply follow the basic technique of whichever method you choose, but after brushing an area, you roll or sweep the bristles toward the chewing surfaces. This action sweeps out debris stuck between the teeth and cleans the entire tooth surface. The sweeping motion also helps prevent damage to the sulcus (the space between teeth and gums).

Tools of the Trade

Using an effective brushing technique is a step up, but to do a good job with any task, you need the correct tools. Consider trying the Colgate 360° toothbrush. It has multi-level bristles to remove more plaque in between teeth, and its raised cleaning tip cleans hard-to-reach places.

Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Worn, frayed brushes don't clean well, and older brushes can harbor bacteria. Don't forget the fluoride toothpaste, which strengthens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay. And floss at least once a day to clean where your toothbrush doesn't reach.

Getting a handle on dental disease is easy: it starts with putting your hand around a toothbrush. So if you would like to try one of these tooth brushing techniques, but aren't sure which one, check with your dentist or dental hygienist. They can customize any of these methods just for you, and along with a one-on-one lesson, you'll be ready for some serious tooth brushing action in no time.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

More Articles You May Like

How to FLOSS

  1. Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.

  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.

  3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

How to BRUSH

  1. Place the toothbrush at a 45°angle along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in a back and forth motion, and repeat for each tooth.

  2. Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.

  3. Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.

  4. Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.

  5. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria.