Brushing and flossing are the first lines of defense against cavities. It's not uncommon, however, for people to make some simple but potentially costly mistakes when they brush and floss. A few of these errors—and how to correct them—are discussed below in more detail.

A Guide to Common Oral Hygiene Mistakes

1. Brushing Too Hard

When you polish a surface like a floor, you may scrub a little harder to remove tougher stains. A vigorous scrub typically restores cleanliness and shine. But the same principle shouldn’t be applied to teeth. Even though tooth enamel—the outermost layer of the tooth—is strong, it needs to be treated with care. Over time, consistently brushing too hard may erode enamel. It can also force gums to recede. Loss of enamel and receding gums increase the chances for cavities, tooth sensitivity, and tooth loss. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface and apply gentle pressure while brushing in small circles.

2. Not Brushing Long Enough

cavityNeglecting to spend enough time brushing also increases the likelihood of cavities. All teeth, not just the visible front teeth, need twice-daily brushing. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 30 seconds on each of the four quadrants of the mouth—the upper right and left and the lower right and left. Set a timer for two minutes to ensure proper brushing time.

3. Not Flossing Properly (Or Skipping It Altogether)

You should aim to floss at least once a day, ideally before bedtime. Many people rush through the flossing process, or they skip it altogether. Devote that same amount of time to flossing as to brushing—two minutes. After winding a length of floss between each index finger, gently glide the floss between each tooth, being careful not to snap it. Wrap the floss in a C-shape around each tooth, and move it up and down each side and across the gumline.


The dentists at Coulee Family Dental have more than 40 years of experience serving patients throughout the La Crosse, WI, area. They provide a variety of family and cosmetic dentistry procedures, including teeth whitening, root canals, dental implants, and cavity treatments like fillings and crowns. They are dedicated to helping you improve and maintain your oral hygiene. Call (608) 782-3102 to schedule an appointment, or visit them online to learn more about their practitioners.