woman and little boy flossing in mirror

Brushing and Flossing 101

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Even though we’ve been brushing and flossing our teeth for years and years, many of us are surprised to learn that we’re not doing it properly. Case in point: Did you know that proper brushing takes at least two minutes? Most adults do not come close to brushing that long.

These four steps are the best and easiest ways to help you remember how to care for your mouth, teeth and gums:

  1. Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes, especially first thing in the morning and before bedtime.
  2. Floss every day – usually at bedtime.
  3. Limit the number of times you eat snacks each day.
  4. Visit your dentist every 6 months for an oral exam and professional cleaning.


Research suggests that the exposure to acidic food and drinks during meals softens the enamel of your teeth. Brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods and drinks increases the chance of enamel erosion. To help prevent dental erosion, drink or rinse with water immediately after eating or drinking. It is recommended that you avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking acidic foods or drinks, or, better yet, brush your teeth before consumption.

Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes helps to remove food particles and dental plaque that can damage teeth and gums over time. Flossing daily helps to remove food that’s stuck in crevices or between the teeth, and also plaque, which can severely impact your oral health, if persistent.

To get a feel for the time involved, try using a stopwatch. To properly brush your teeth, use short, gentle strokes, paying extra attention to the gum line, hard-to-reach back teeth and areas around fillings, crowns, implants or other restoration. Concentrate on thoroughly cleaning each section as follows:

  • Clean the outer surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth.
  • Clean the inner surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth.
  • Clean the chewing surfaces of all the teeth.
  • For fresher breath, be sure to brush your tongue at least once a day, too.


  • 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.
  • Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.
  • Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.
  • Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.
  • Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor causing bacteria.


  • Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.
  • Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.
  • 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.


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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.

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