Plaque is a film of bacteria that coats your teeth if you don't brush them properly. It contributes to gum disease, tooth decay and cavities.
Toothbrushing stops plaque building up. It isn't just about moving some toothpaste around your mouth, though. You need to concentrate on the nooks and crannies to make sure you remove as much plaque and leftover bits of food as possible.
Brush your teeth for at least two minutes in the morning before breakfast and last thing at night before you go to bed.
Never brush your teeth straight after a meal as it can damage your teeth, especially if you've had fruit, fizzy drinks, wine or any other food that contains acid.
This is because tooth enamel is softened by the acid and can be worn away by brushing. Instead, wait an hour after a meal before brushing your teeth to give your saliva chance to neutralise the acid.
It doesn't matter whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush. They're both equally good as long as you brush with them properly. However, some people find it easier to clean their teeth thoroughly with an electric toothbrush.
For most adults, a toothbrush with a small head and a compact, angled arrangement of long and short, round-end bristles is fine. Medium or soft bristles are best for most people. Use an electric brush with an oscillating or rotating head. If in doubt, ask your dentist.
The cleaning agents and particles in toothpaste help to remove plaque from your teeth, keeping them clean and healthy.
Most toothpastes also contain fluoride, which helps to prevent and control cavities. It’s important to use a toothpaste with the right concentration of fluoride. Check the packaging to find out how much fluoride each brand contains.
It's fine for babies and children to use the family toothpaste rather than a special children's toothpaste, provided it contains the right concentration of fluoride.
The British Dental Health Foundation gives the following advice on how to brush your teeth: