Due to its effectiveness in preventing plaque buildup and its non-abrasiveness toward the teeth and gums, most dentists agree that the “Bass technique” is the preferred method of brushing teeth. The method is named after Dr. Charles C. Bass, widely considered the father of modern dentistry because of his pioneering developments in preventative oral care, which included nylon dental floss and the multi-tufted toothbrush.
The Bass technique consists of placing the toothbrush midway between the teeth and gums, slanted toward the gums at a 45 degree angle. This enables the bristles to get below the gum line and penetrate minuscule pockets where infection can occur. Rather than brushing in a circular motion, the preferred movement is a steady vibration, which tends to be gentler on the teeth and gums while still effectively removing plaque from hard-to-reach areas.
Most dentists recommend electric toothbrushes because of their ability to produce this vibration movement. However, they also advise against using toothbrushes that have spinning bristles—as with manually brushing in a circular motion, these tend to be more abrasive than ones that simply vibrate. Another factor to consider when purchasing a toothbrush is the rigidity of the bristles. A toothbrush with soft bristles is always preferable because it will be gentler on your teeth and gums.
When it comes to choosing a type of toothpaste, Palo Alto-based dentist Dr. Daniel Armistead says the choice is less vital than you might think. “Toothpaste exists largely to make brushing your teeth more pleasant—it’s the act of brushing itself that washes away bacteria and food particles. The exception is if you have a specific dental problem like tooth decay or a mineral deficiency. Certain products are designed to address those types of issues, so if that applies to you, ask your dentist for a recommendation.”
For regular toothpaste, most dentists recommend using a product with fluoride to protect your teeth from being eroded by acids created by mouth bacteria. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and reverses minor damage by repairing areas where decay has started, but it can also be harmful in large doses, so make sure you use the recommended amount.