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How often should you brush your teeth? Here's what a dentist recommends.

Those pearly whites need TLC to fight cavities and gum disease — but going overboard poses risks too, experts say.

Brushing your teeth is a must for good oral hygiene, but are you sure you're cleaning yours as often as you should — and for the recommended amount of time? We reached out to a top-rated orthodontist for a definitive answer. Read on to make sure you've got your brushing basics down pat.

Two plastic toothbrushes on a pastel background.
Change toothbrushes at minimum of every three months. (Oral hygiene)

How often (and how long) should you brush your teeth each day?

Quick overview

No surprises here: The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristle toothbrush. But pros say there's a bit more to the story.

"My personal recommendations as an orthodontist follow the recommendations of the ADA, with some additional supplements for optimum oral hygiene," said St. Louis-based Dr. Erin Fraundorf. "For my patients, I recommend [they] brush minimally twice daily for two-plus minutes each time."

The key word there is minimally. Fraundorf added that she suggests brushing a third or fourth time, "but never immediately after eating as it can cause enamel breakdown from the acidic oral environment formed during eating."

She also says that everyone should invest in an electric toothbrush for a more thorough cleaning as long as the bristles aren't too abrasive. "Always ensure it is a soft-bristle brush head, and change it at minimum every three months or more frequently if you're sick," she added.

Green toothbrush with pink bristles lying on a blue background.
How often should you brush your teeth? Up to four times a day, say dentists. (Getty Images)

Why is it important to brush for this long?

What we were taught as kids still applies: Failing to brush your teeth regularly leads to plaque buildup, which can cause complications that can make it much more difficult to maintain good oral hygiene.

"Brushing helps remove food particles, bacteria and plaque off of your teeth and other surfaces of your mouth," Fraundorf said. "Following eating, the bacteria in plaque consume food particles that it encounters and makes as a by-product of acid, which in turn breaks down tooth enamel and can lead to cavities."

She added that if this plaque isn't removed from brushing, it can combine with the minerals in your saliva and harden on your teeth, "turning into what we call calculus, or tartar." And once tartar forms on your teeth, it becomes harder to keep them clean and can lead to gum tissue inflammation and gum disease.

Is it possible to overbrush your teeth?

While maintaining a regular brushing routine is key, most people don't realize that it's actually possible to overdo it. Strike a balance.

"Overbrushing with excess force or frequency can lead to wearing away of gum tissue and enamel, which can lead to long-term tooth, gum and bone health and stability issues," Fraundorf explained.

She added that the easiest way to avoid both over- and underbrushing is by investing in an electric toothbrush with a built-in pressure sensor. Most brushes on the market have this feature.

"I love a toothbrush with a pressure sensor that lights up green when it's the perfect pressure and red when it's too hard," she said. "It eliminates the guesswork of determining how hard you should brush because there's no way to know until you see the consequences."

A favorite among dental professionals, this rechargeable and travel-friendly electric toothbrush has a brushing timer and pressure sensor and features three cleaning modes (daily clean, sensitive and whitening).

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One of Fraundorf's top recommendations, this electric toothbrush comes with three replacement brush heads and gives you personalized guidance while you brush.

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What other products are necessary for good oral hygiene?

In addition to an electric toothbrush with a built-in pressure sensor, Fraundorf recommends a toothpaste with fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite, any kind of traditional floss, a water flosser, a tongue scraper and an alcohol-free mouth rinse. Alcohol "will create an acidic environment and actually promotes demineralization of your enamel," she said.

Fraundorf suggests using both manual floss and a water flosser at least once a day. She said this cordless Oral-B with three cleaning modes is her favorite.

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According to Fraundorf, use a toothpaste with fluoride for better gum health. For patients with general sensitivity or sensitivity with teeth whitening, "I have them utilize a toothpaste that also has potassium nitrate," she added. This option from Sensodyne covers all bases.

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