Yes, You Really Do Need to Brush Your Teeth for Two Minutes

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— why two minutes (and not one or three)? And do most people actually make it to the two-minute mark?

To prevent cavities and gum disease, brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, is non-negotiable. We hear this golden rule of oral health everywhere from the dentist’s office, to toothpaste ads, to morning shows. But why two minutes (and not, say, one or three)? And do most people actually make it to the two-minute mark?

Let’s talk plaque.

Plaque is like your email inbox—it fills up fast, so if you don’t stay on top of it daily, it can easily get out of control. The reason plaque grows back so quickly: We can never remove all of it. In fact, you don’t want to completely get rid of it. Plaque plays a role in maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in our mouths, supporting a strong immune system. What we want is to make sure plaque doesn’t reach a level that leads to cavities and gum disease, and experts and studies suggest that two minutes is the ideal duration for removing the right amount of plaque from all of our teeth.

Properly brushing our teeth is harder than we think.

Your teeth are situated in what dental experts call an “arch,” shaped like the letter U—there’s an upper arch and a lower arch. Each tooth curves around the edges of the arch and is met by an adjacent tooth in a place called the “contact” point. This positioning makes it challenging to reach every surface of your teeth when you brush.

I like to use the analogy of washing windows: The reason window washers make big bucks to risk their lives by dangling from tall buildings is because you can’t really clean those windows by simply spraying them with a fire hose. You need to add a cleaning solution and use a squeegee, aligning it perfectly with the window’s flat surface, to ensure the glass gets fully clean. Now imagine cleaning your teeth: They’re all various shapes, they curve dramatically toward the contact point, and their surfaces are anything but flat. So it’s a lot harder to properly clean your  teeth than it is to wash a skyscraper’s windows!  

Most of us, especially kids, don’t brush for two full minutes.

Since it’s so challenging to maneuver toothbrush bristles in such a way that we achieve contact with all of our teeth’s surfaces, dental professional like to instruct patients to move the bristles around their mouth at a certain angle (different for each tooth), so they can reach, and properly clean, each tooth. And to ensure that we keep plaque below the disease-danger-zone level, we must brush in this effective position for several seconds per tooth, which adds up to at least two minutes total. You can see why most people, and especially kids, don’t use the proper technique or brush for two full minutes—although the majority of toothbrushes on the market are effective (or can be) for maintaining healthy plaque levels, properly cleaning teeth requires skill and time.

Let Willo do the work.

Meet Willo, the first smart toothbrush for kids. Our automated system safely and consistently cleans teeth in an entirely new way, cutting down on user error and making brushing easier for children who struggle to reach every tooth. Willo takes care of the precise bristle positioning and movement required to thoroughly clean every tooth, so kids and their parents can stop struggling and start smiling.