Two Minutes, Twice a Day

me, brushing my teeth in the mirror

I recently had a dental exam. The hygienist commented on how little plaque had accumulated on my teeth, and how good my oral hygiene was in general. In fact she asked if I used an electric toothbrush and seemed incredulous at my answer of, “no, just a regular brush.”

So it is on this authority that I post my tooth brushing routine.

First, begin with a non-fluoridated toothpaste. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there is good reason to believe that fluoride actually contributes to tooth decay.

Next, you’ll need to brush for at least two minutes, twice a day (or more). You can get a two-minute timer to make sure that you are brushing at least that long, but there is more to effective oral hygiene than just time spent with a brush in your mouth. You need to make sure that each tooth is getting an effective amount of time with that brush while it is in there, rather than randomly.

So I started analyzing this two minute recommendation and realized that was one minute for the top teeth and one for the bottom teeth. Further analysis revealed that we should be spending about twenty seconds on each side of the mouth, and another twenty seconds on the front teeth. This was getting exciting. So I stepped up my analysis and noted that the teeth on the sides of our mouths are primarily molars, each having two sides: lingual, by your tongue and labial, by your lips. Further, there is the top, or chewing surface. So in all, three surfaces to brush. So each of these surfaces should get about seven seconds of attention during a tooth brushing.

Next I noted that the front teeth do not have chewing surfaces, which leaves them with only two surface to brush, labial and lingual. This means we can give them about ten seconds for each side.

I further noted that each side of the mouth takes 21 seconds (three surfaces times seven seconds). Double that to get a total of 42 seconds, leaving 18 seconds for the front teeth. That would leave 9 seconds for each side of the front teeth. Do this on the top and bottom, and you have your two minutes of brushing.

So now, rather than randomly brushing my teeth for who know s how long, and hoping they all get enough attention, I brush with purpose and a plan. I begin at the bottom left labial side of my mouth and brush for seven seconds, moving to the tops of those teeth for another seven seconds and finishing those teeth with seven seconds of vigorous brushing on the lingual surface. I then move to the lingual surface of my bottom front teeth, counting out nine seconds, and another nine seconds on the labial surface of those teeth. Then it is over to the bottom right teeth for seven seconds of brushing on each surface.

Repeat for the top teeth, and floss to taste. I actually spend about ten seconds brushing my tongue, as I want to avoid ever getting a black hairy tongue(warning — scary picture of a black hairy tongue on this page).

One last comment is that at first I watched a clock with a second hand as I brushed, but soon found that I could count seconds off pretty accurately as I brushed.


i knew of the “2-minute” rule but i’ve never broken it down like this before. at one point in my life, i did do a count to 20 at each side of the mouth but the “20” came from random “what felt like the right amount of time” rather than dissection of the 2-minute rule. thanks man.

Posted by: jack on April 20, 2008 03:53 PM

About this post

In which I share my toothbrushing routine...

March 18, 2008 | meta

More Like This

By Category

Recent Posts

Monthly Archives

We Endure