My housemates think I'm cleaning my teeth wrong. So I asked a dentist to prove me right.

Colgate Optic White®
Thanks to our brand partner, Colgate Optic White®

Lately my housemates and I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye. You see, they think I’m crazy.

Not because I’m in bed by nine most nights, can put away a packet of tasty cheese in record time and blow dry my hair at an ungodly hour of the morning.

They’ve taken issue with the way I clean my teeth. And it’s dividing our household.

I’ve always subscribed to the notion that if you brush twice a day after breakfast and dinner, you’re good as gold.

Which is why my housemates were horrified to see me one chilly morning, chowing down on a hot bowl of porridge BEFORE cleaning my teeth.

“That’s DISGUSTING,” they said. “What about all the bacteria that’s grown in your mouth overnight,” they said.

At first, I was taken aback. Why would anyone in their right mind clean their teeth BEFORE devouring Vegemite toast? Wouldn’t that just make it taste…weird? And what of orange juice or my morning coffee, ruined by a premature minty aftertaste?

Image: Giphy.

But then I got to wondering...

Maybe I'm the weirdo. Maybe I've been cleaning my teeth wrong all these years. Maybe, just maybe, I know nothing about how to actually take care of my oral health.

For the sake of a harmonious household, I asked dentist and Colgate Scientific Affairs Manager Dr Sue Cartwright to brush over the common teeth cleaning mistakes most of us are making to settle this one once and for all.

Brushing: Before or after breakfast?

If my housemates are reading, it's time to call a truce, because according to Dr Cartwright your mouth doesn't care whether you brush before or after breakfast, so long as it's done.

In fact, it's your night time brushing routine that's far more important to overall oral health.

"The most important time to brush is before bed. Don't eat or drink anything other than water after brushing your teeth before you go to bed," Dr Cartwright told Mamamia.

"Cleaning at night after a big day can be too hard for some people but this is when you need it most. Saliva, which protects your teeth is scarce at night and anything left sitting there will have a worse effect.

"You can remove overnight plaque buildup from your teeth by brushing either before or after breakfast - a lot of people prefer to do it after so that they have a clean mouth when they head out for the day."

Image: Getty.

Do I have to floss... every day?

Put simply, yes.

"Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing once will help to protect your teeth and gums from disease," Dr Cartwright explained.

"You can't just wave the floss around in the gap between the teeth - you need to carefully clean each tooth surface by pulling the floss taught and moving it up and down the surface."


What's the biggest teeth cleaning mistake people are making?

According to Dr Cartwright, cleaning your teeth twice a day is all well and good - but only if you're doing it in the right way.

"So many people concentrate on brushing their front teeth and don't attend to all the surfaces of their back teeth," she said. "Plaque often builds up on back teeth beside the tongue and behind the last molars. Cleaning between teeth is a chore but this is another area to concentrate on as plaque build up causes gingivitis."

Image: Getty.

Another common mistake Dr Cartwright sees is people brushing too hard because they think the harder, the better the clean.


"If you naturally press hard like I do, you may need to hold your brush with a pen grip and not your whole hand to minimise your ability to apply force," she advised.

Is at-home teeth whitening really effective?

"If you want to get an idea of how effective a product may be, beyond simply removing and preventing stain build-up - which is what a lot of toothpastes offer - you need to look at the concentration of hydrogen peroxide," Dr Cartwright says of selecting an at-home teeth whitening product.

"A one or two percent [hydrogen peroxide] product, like Colgate Optic White® High Impact White™ will provide you with good everyday maintenance while higher concentrations will have more effect on teeth that are more heavily stained."

Colgate Optic White® High Impact White™ is the first Colgate toothpaste to promise visible whitening results after brushing twice daily for six weeks. Containing two percent hydrogen peroxide, which is the whitening ingredient dentists use in their professional treatments, Colgate Optic White® High Impact White™'s gentle, enamel safe formula is the affordable teeth whitening option suitable for everyday use.

For best results, Dr Cartwright advised applying the paste to your brush before brushing thoroughly at least twice a day for six weeks.

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I don't take particular care of my oral health, but I'll be OK... right?


"A lot of people still believe that getting tooth decay is inevitable," Dr Cartwright said of why many people delay visiting the dentist.

"There was even an 'old wives' tale' I often heard in practice that you lost one tooth for each pregnancy - the belief being the baby took calcium from your teeth, but this does not happen.

"However, [tooth decay] is mostly preventable. To avoid the big problems you need to catch things early, which is why you need to see a dental professional regularly to pick up on the early signs of disease which you can't see yourself."

Do you brush your teeth BEFORE or AFTER breakfast? How well do you look after your oral health?

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Colgate Optic White®.