Here's How Long You Really Need To Brush Your Teeth

As it turns out, there's a right way and wrong way to brush your teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should aim to brush your teeth for at least two minutes, two times a day.

While this recommendation tracks with common advice from our childhood dentists, a study in The Journal of Dental Hygiene found that a sample of adults brushed for just 30 to 60 seconds on average. Additionally, almost 30 percent of individuals only brush their teeth once per day, and shockingly, two percent say they don't brush at all (via Fortson Dentistry).

If you've been a little lax with your brushing habits, now may be a great time to put your toothbrush where your mouth is. The results from The Journal of Dental Hygiene study indicate that brushing for a full two minutes can remove up to 26 percent more plaque. According to pediatric dentists Dr. Maggie Davis and Associates, it can also help prevent gum disease by removing the acid and bacteria that lead to inflammation.

What's the right way to brush your teeth?

If you're not accustomed to spending two full minutes brushing your teeth, it may seem like a long time — but there's a lot of ground to cover. According to Healthline, ADA recommendations encourage you to use short, gentle strokes, going back-and-forth over the surface of each tooth. You should brush the outer and inner surfaces, angling the brush vertically to reach the inside. To maximize the benefit to your gums, hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gumline. It's also a good idea to brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to remove lingering bacteria.

When you're done brushing, rinse your toothbrush and allow it to air dry in an upright position (via WebMD). Replace it every three months or when it starts to look frayed.

While you may think that more is better here, there doesn't seem to be any benefit to brushing your teeth after every meal — and some orthodontists say it can be harmful (via Hamilton & Whitecotton Orthodontics). This is especially true after eating highly acidic foods. Allow your mouth to rest for at least 15 minutes (and preferably an hour) before brushing. You can rinse with plain water if you feel the urge to freshen up.