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Brushing Without Toothpaste: Should You Even Bother?

It’s happened to all of us. You’re unpacking your travel bag after a long trip, and you’re dyin’ to get to bed. Eager to brush up and hit the rack, you grab your toothbrush, and aim for the toothpaste. Nothing. Groggy-eyed, you fumble around some more, searching. Still nothing. Looks like you forgot the toothpaste – again. After the front desk informs you they’re out, you wonder what you’re going to do. Should you even bother to brush? Well, as it turns out, according to the American Dental Association, brushing without toothpaste might be just what you needed.

In a six-month trial published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, patients who first brushed their teeth with a toothbrush that didn’t contain toothpaste (and then with toothpaste afterwards) saw a 63% reduction in plaque build-up, and a 55% drop in bleeding. Now that’s something worth considering. Let’s look at the best way for you to capitalize on this new “old” way of brushing your teeth!

  1. Use a dry brush: While a dry brush is most recommended because it’s stiffer than a wet brush, if you’d like to add a little water to your brush to soften it up a bit, it’s not really a big deal. After all, it’s going to get wet in your mouth in a matter of a minute or so, anyway. That said, start with it being dry if you can.

  2. Shoot for 45-degrees: Effective brushing means brushing at a 45-degree angle to the gumline. Since plaque hangs out near your gums, angling your brush is the best way to remove it effectively. This holds true when dry brushing and when brushing with toothpaste.

  3. Brush from the inside, out: The easiest plaque deposits to miss are nearest your tongue, so start on the inside bottom teeth first, then navigate to the inside top teeth, then outside to finish up the job.

  4. "Dance" the brush: You’ve got to put a little bit of wiggle in that brush to get the best results, so use little circles and visualize, if you can, the individual bristles sweeping across the surface of your teeth. If you think about brushing as a massage for your teeth and gums, you’ll likely end up with the proper brushing technique.

  5. Take your time: Advice on the length of time you should brush can depend on the uniqueness of your own mouth, and range from 1.5 minutes up to 20! So, chat with your dentist about their personal recommendations for your teeth.

  6. Get out of the bathroom: Dry brushing is best done when you’re not in the bathroom. Why? Because you’ve got a deeply ingrained habit that suggests you’ve brushed correctly while standing for a minute or so in the bathroom. Hardly accurate. So, take the brush into the living room, use it while watching television, or sitting down reading. Be conscious of your technique, the time spent doing it, and what your teeth feel like afterwards. Which brings us to the final step. The feel …

  7. Aim for smooth: Brushing dry means brushing for “feel” instead of time. When you’ve done an effective job of removing plaque from your teeth, they should feel as smooth as they do when your teeth are cleaned professionally.

  8. Don’t rely completely on feel, though: Understandably, tooth brushing is a bit of a guessing game. It doesn’t have to be though, because there are always disclosing tablets to save you from your brushing inadequacies! Remember those fun purple or red tablets you chewed as a kid to see if you were brushing correctly? Well, there’s nothing to stop you from using them as an adult, so hop online, or waltz into your dental office and pick up a box. Kids shouldn’t be the only ones who have all the fun in life, right!?

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