How to Brush Your Teeth Correctly

There is a better way to brush your teeth- see how

I’m guessing (or at least hoping) that you learned to brush your teeth at a really young age and you’ve probably been brushing them pretty much that same way since then. You may have gotten a more grown up toothpaste that doesn’t taste like bubblegum and your toothbrush may not have a picture of Elmo on it anymore, but you likely still use the same method to brush.

A Better Way to Brush?

Just like we eventually grow out of bubblegum flavored blue toothpaste (Tip: use a natural toothpaste with your kids too!), there is a science-backed and more effective way to brush your teeth as well. Statistically, all of us could use an upgrade to our oral hygiene habits anyway, as over 90% of adults have some form of gum disease!

The early symptoms of gum disease are often ignored, and what starts as just bleeding gums or bad breath can eventually cause severe oral health problems and even tooth loss. Research is finding that not only is gum disease a leading cause of tooth loss in adults, but those bacteria living in the mouth and under the gums can cause systemic problems in the body as well! (That is why those with heart trouble and certain other medical conditions are told to take an antibiotic whenever getting their teeth cleaned at the dentist.)

While brushing alone won’t necessarily stop gum disease, there is a particular method of brushing that was discovered years ago that more effectively fights these harmful strains of bacteria in the mouth.

It’s All About That Bass…

Ok, ok… not the song, but an old school doctor named Dr. Charles Bass who discovered this method of brushing (now called the Bass Brushing method). At the time, Dr. Bass was the youngest person to become Dean of a medical school and was a pioneer in his field, carrying the first microscope west of the Mississippi River. (source)

Although he was academically gifted, his teeth weren’t as genetically fortunate, and at a young age, he was diagnosed with advanced gum disease and his dentist recommended complete removal of all of his teeth. He didn’t find this option particularly appealing (who would!) and instead decided to use his medical knowledge to try to address the disease scientifically.

Using his microscope, Dr. Bass identified the strains of bacteria in his mouth and used the microscope to gauge if different methods he tried were working to fight his gum disease, eventually identifying a method of brushing and a special toothbrush that helped reverse his gum disease. He was said to have died with all of his teeth in his mouth.

Why You Should Brush Your Gums

The method that Dr. Bass discovered for brushing, the “Bass Brushing” technique, is effective because it addresses bacterial colonization in the gums and doesn’t just focus on “scrubbing” the surface of the teeth. Dr. Bass found that many toothbrushes are too abrasive with bristles too close together to effectively address bacteria in the gums, so he created a brush called the Bass Brush that has bristles farther apart to be able to effectively reach the gums as well.

These specialized brushes also have rounded tips instead of the sharp/straight tips of most bristles, making them gentler on the gums. I have several family members who were told they were brushing too hard and had receding gums as a result. This brushing method and these more gentle toothbrushes help address this problem as well. Here’s a visual of the difference:

toothbrush bristle comparision

While the Bass Brushes are recommended for this method (and they are the brushes we use), some people have noticed some of the benefits from using the Bass method with their regular toothbrushes.

How to Brush Your Teeth With the Bass Brushing Method

First, hold the toothbrush gently! You’re not cleaning a grout line, so rather than holding the toothbrush like a scrub brush, hold it gently so your arm can relax and apply the small movements required for the Bass brushing technique:

  • Hold the brush at the commonly recognized 45 degree angle to the tooth and gum line.
  • The main difference in the Bass technique is how small the movements are. The Bass brushing technique uses very small lateral strokes along the gum line.
  • It’s almost like you aren’t “brushing” your teeth. Rather, you place the toothbrush at a spot along the gum line and gently wiggle using very small, fine back-and-forth motions to get the bristles down between the teeth and under the gum line.
  • Count to 5, then move to the next place with your brush and repeat.
  • The small motion takes practice, but in time, you will be amazed at how much healthier your gums will feel!

Here’s a video that shows the method and explains why it works:

My Personal Tooth Brushing Story

When I was younger, I had swollen gums that started when I had braces (the latex in the rubber bands irritated my gums). Even years after the braces came off, my dentist always commented that my gums were swollen, especially on my bottom front teeth. A few years ago, he was worried that I had the beginning of gingivitis in my gums and that due to the swelling, it was hard to effectively clean under the gums.

It wasn’t until years later when I started using natural toothpaste options and Bass Toothbrushes that the swelling in my gums finally went away completely. Since switching, my gums are not swollen and my teeth are no longer sensitive to cold. I often use OraWellness Heal Thy Mouth Blend as toothpaste or in homemade toothpaste recipes since it contains oils that help battle the bacteria in the mouth.

If you want a more paste-like option for toothpaste, I recommend these homemade recipes:

Even if you decide to stick with the cartoon character toothbrush, try brushing your teeth with the Bass Brushing Method instead. Your teeth and gums will thank you!

Ever used a Bass toothbrush or any other natural toothpaste? Share your experience below!

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Reader Comments

  1. biggest oral health challenge is bleeding gums and keeping my teeth white 

  2. I have been using many of your suggestions, including oil pulling and brushing with activated charcoal. I used to use white strips from time to time, but they made my teeth very sensitive. I have not used of them since December 2012…. The charcoal and coconut oil are keeping my teeth nice and white!

    I am very intrigued by the toothbrush. I definitely have a tendency to brush too hard. Do your teeth feel clean, even with the soft rounded bristles?

  3. I have receding gums (I’m only 25 — TERRIBLE diet + aggressive brushing did this to me) and I’m concerned about aggravating the problem. Wouldn’t brushing directly on the gum line make it worse?
    Thank you. 🙂

    • Hi Sara,
      Like you, I was an aggressive brusher from childhood, believing it made my cleaner teeth. By my earlier twenties I had receding gums, particularly severe on one side of my mouth. The dentist told me to brush gently and use a soft toothbrush. Thanks to that advice, I immediately started paying attention the fact that toothbrushes came in soft, medium and hard varieties. I started buying soft toothbrushes and brushing gently; that is, learning to hold the toothbrush very loosely in my hand and not gripping it hard as I used to. Now in my fifties, I can tell you that while my receding gums never regrew, they have never worsened in all that time. My gums are healthy and pink due to diligent flossing since my teen years and keeping good mouth hygiene practices, and I have not had any teeth issues where I have the receding gums.

      Like you, I worried and panicked when I was so young and realised the damage I’d done to my gums, and enamel too, by brushing so hard for years, but changing my brushing habits back then made all the difference in the world to losing my teeth!

      I hope this helps with the worry.

    • As a experience user of bass brushes I say it’s very gentle and doesn’t damage or harm the gums at all 😉

    • Hiya, The idea of brushing below the gum line seems “wrong” but what actually causes problems is the plaque build-up under the gums. Brushing as Wellness Mama describes helps to deter plaque build-up and so is healthier for your teeth and gums than just brushing over the surface. Another item I have been looking into lately is Xylitol. I have very bad dry mouth at night due to a medication I must take at the moment. I tried all different types of tablets, solutions, mints, but they all left me with “sugar mouth” and horrible morning breath, plus I didn’t like the idea of any sugar left in my mouth all night and hate artificial sweeteners. After doing some research, I discovered that not only will Xylitol not cause that issue, it actually interfers with plaque formation — bonus! So now when I awake in the night with dry mouth, I pop a Xylitol mint (being sure to finish it so no choking!) and drift off back to sleep. And in the morning, my mouth still feels relatively clean and no morning breath! I use Sprys lemon mints, they are small and once my mouth is moistened, I just crush the remaining mint and go back to sleep — sorted!!

      • My sister in law had issue with xylitol. Made bathroom stops frequent til she figured it out. She had xylitol gum however.

  4. Hi Katie,
    I have receding gums (I’m only 25! Years of poor diet + aggressive brushing) and I’m concerned about making them worse.
    Wouldn’t brushing at the gum line exacerbate the problem?
    Is there any way to REVERSE the damage I’ve done to my gums, i.e., can I regrow them?
    Thank you!

    • Email the people at OraWellness. They are really helpful and have dealt first hand with that and reversed it. Long story short though- it is possible to reverse it and brushing this way should not make it worse

    • Hi Sara,

      Like you, I was an aggressive brusher from childhood, believing it made my cleaner teeth. By my earlier twenties I had receding gums, particularly severe on one side of my mouth. The dentist told me to brush gently and use a soft toothbrush. Thanks to that advice, I immediately started paying attention the fact that toothbrushes came in soft, medium and hard varieties. I started buying soft toothbrushes and brushing gently; that is, learning to hold the toothbrush very loosely in my hand and not gripping it hard as I used to. Now in my fifties, I can tell you that while my receding gums never regrew, they have never worsened in all that time. My gums are healthy and pink due to diligent flossing since my teen years and keeping good mouth hygiene practices, and I have not had any teeth issues where I have the receding gums.

      Like you, I worried and panicked when I was so young and realised the damage I’d done to my gums, and enamel too, by brushing so hard for years, but changing my brushing habits back then made all the difference in the world to losing my teeth!

      I hope this helps with the worry.

    • I recently bought a Water Pik and am amazed, even after brushing and flossing, how many small food particles still remain that are removed via irrigation. These particles could contribute to bacterial growth, causing gum disease and cavities. Seeing is believing — I now regard irrigating before bed (and after meals) an indispensable part of good oral hygiene.

    • I used to have that problem too, and the technique my dentist taught me at the time that made it reverse it was to brush in a rotating movement always from the gum to the tooth, as the back and forth movement was causing the gum to get “loose” from the tooth and recede. I had not heard of the Bass technique until now so I may try it too. But haven’t had receded gum since doing it that way!

  5. Oral care is on my to-learn list! I took down your toothpaste recipe so I need to buy the ingredients and get to making it! I’ve always had gum issues. Mine are so sensitive and get swollen and bleed easily. I’ve been doing what I can to try and rebuild and make better.

  6. Do you ever floss?

  7. Thank you for sharing! I ordered toothbrushes for my whole family and picked up some of the floss they offer. I am ECSTATIC that the toothbrushes are made in the USA!

  8. We rinse with diluted 35% food grade peroxide. Its great for gingivitis, bad breath etc etc!

    • Have rinsed with peroxide too. I just make sure not to do it too often, as I read it can cause problems (separation of gum & teeth, etc.) if used too frequently.

  9. Thanks for reminding me I need to order some of these toothbrushes. I wanted to mention that I’ve suffered from tonsil stones (tonsilliths) for years. They were responsible for some embarrassingly bad breath, but almost 2 years ago I started using the remineralizing tooth powder and I have NOT had tonsil stones since then. The tooth powder has been life-changing and that is no exaggeration.

    • Hey I suffer from really bad tonsil stone. My whole tonsil are filled with them and I mean filled I usually get three out of the same spot at once. I was told a few years ago I needed to have my tonsils removed but I never did it. Can you tell me more about your toothpaste?
      Thank you

  10. Our family is using Miswak (or Sewak), it is a little branch of a tooth tree, which grows in Arabic countries. You soak it’s end and then chew it a bit, so like this it becomes a toothbrush. But it gives me the most amazing feeling of cleaned teeth, even if I don’t have the toothpaste with me at the moment.

    • We used that in Africa. Amazingly effective!

  11. What would you recommend for receding gumlines? I’ve been searching for a while and can’t really find any good info. Thanks!

  12. Receding and sensitive gums are often caused by brushing too rigorously. Easiest solution is to gently brush using your non-dominant hand or oil-pull for a while to take a break.

  13. I recently read your article on using food grade charcoal for brushing teeth and healing gums. As well a couple other sites. I have been using this for several weeks now & I am amazed at the difference of my gums. No more soreness, no bleeding and teeth seem to be getting whiter.

    I also purchased the bass toothbrush & some oil that I will be adding to my daily use.

    My question is: how often do I use the charcoal? And my dentist still wants to do a deep cleaning because she says I have plaque buildup. Will the charocal help in getting rid of the buildup or do I need to get this procedure done?

    Thanks,
    Elizzabeth D

  14. I find this topic very interesting as I’d like to get away from conventional toothpastes. However, it appears to me that Bass toothbrushes are made from plastic and I’m trying to eliminate plastic as much as possible! Some 47 million plastic toothbrushes go into landfills every year! And that’s just toothbrushes!! Imagine all the other plastic products tossed every day. It’s astounding. Bamboo is the best way to go for your next new toothbrush. We need to consider the health of our planet as well.

    • You might be interested in the Source toothbrush, which is made out of recycled materials and is 100% recyclable.

      While it has its own unique design and touts its own benefits, I cannot attest how it compares to the Bass toothbrush.

    • Absolutely Lynn! That’s a concern of mine too. Depending on where you live, check to see if there’s any place with a TerraCycle recycling dropoff. I shop at local co-ops and found one that has this. You can recycle toothbrushes, empty deodorant containers and caps, floss containers, soap packaging, etc, and in another bin things like packaged food bags (like potato chip bags) are recyclable. I took a photo but can’t upload. I don’t eat potato chips, and I make my toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, etc thanks to Wellness Mama 🙂 but I wanted to pass that along.

      Thanks for thinking of the environment!!

  15. Katie thank you so much for all this oral info!

    I bought the bass toothbrush and HealThy Mouth blend and started using them morning and night. But in the morning after brushing and going throughout my day my teeth just didn’t feel very clean. I went on the Oralwellnesses website under FAQ and was surprised to see under the question:
    What type of toothbrush should I use?
    We recommend using a Bass toothbrush with the Bass brushing technique in the morning and a quality electric toothbrush in the evening.

    I was very pleased to see this and with making this change my teeth feel much cleaner!

  16. I was wondering where I could get Charcoal for the pulling. How does it work? Is it kid friendly and does it have a horrible taste? Thanks in advance ~Jen

    • I found activated charcoal on amazon.com
      The charcoal is used in brushing and oil is used in pulling. Just dip a wet tooth brush in the powder.
      The charcoal feels a bit gritty but does not taste bad. We started using it a couple weeks ago and my husbands teeth are already whiter (mine were pretty white to begin with)
      I’m looking forward to using it with my kids. Just be sure not to spill or you will have a huge mess.

  17. What doe everyone use for small children? I have a 4 year old & I don'[t see that they make a children sized Bass brush? I feel like an adult size one would gag her

  18. Hi,
    One question. How often should a bass toothbrush be replaced? Every 3-4 months like a regular toothbrush?

    Thank you.

  19. How long lasting are the bass brushes?

  20. What floss do you use?

  21. Do you have any thoughts on this toothpaste? I recently saw it and was curious to know your thoughts…Natural Whitening Tooth & Gum Powder with Activated Charcoal

  22. I watched the video, the gentleman never brushed the teeth themselves, just the gums.. What about the teeth?? And do we do the same on the inside gums, upper and lower also? He only did the front bottom…
    Thanks!

  23. Guys, you also have to get onboard with using a tongue scraper!! It’s so gross but SO effective and my mouth has never felt cleaner! Best invention! ?

  24. I have always brushed my tongue with the toothbrush Suzie, did U not also prior to getting the scraper? Don’t see that the scraper would be any better, both effective… Rodney

    • Yeah I used to just brush my tongue, but was told to try the tongue scraper and it’s so much more effective! You wouldn’t think there’s a big difference but there is, you have to try it to see for yourself. 🙂

  25. Thank you for this. I’ve been using the Bass toothbrush and the OraWellness oil for a while now. I use a natural toothpaste (currenly Redmond) and an electric toothbrush in the morning and the Bass toothbrush and oil in the evening. Between that and flossing (I used to hate flossing but I found out it really is the best to keep my tight teeth clean and gums not bleeding) my teeth are great. I also use peroxide mixed half and half with water to rinse if I feel things are tender or just ‘yucky’. It works!

  26. Hi Katie! Do you have any tips to brush a toddler’s teeth? I understand that at 2 years old you have plenty of more important stuff to do than brushing your teeth, but it is not negotiable and so far it’s been more of a battlefield at home. I would love to apply Bass method, but so far it’s more a “do it in whatever way possible the fastest you can before we get another meltdown”. Ugh.
    Also, when we took her to the dentist a couple of months ago, dentist pointed out that we should start using toothpaste when brushing her teeth. Well she didn’t get the “spitting” part so far, so I’m still not comfortable on allowing her toothpaste (even when the toothpaste I intend to use is your remineralizing, all natural recipe, which I’ve been using myself with very satisfactory outcomes). Hubby has been pesting me about it as he understands that dentist certainly knows better. Still, I don’t know… would be really helpful if you share some of your experience with toddlers toothbrushing. I am sure you have plenty!
    Thak you!

    • Totally understand! Doing much of anything with toddlers can prove a challenge 😉 Sometimes we find it helpful to distract them with a toy or some entertainment (husband sings and does a silly dance while I brush); it may only afford us a few extra seconds, but it allows us to get areas that we might otherwise miss with a squirmy toddler. We’ve also noticed that our toddlers have been more willing to brush if older siblings/parents are brushing at the same time (they want to emulate the “big people” behavior). Hope that helps 🙂

  27. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!
    I have been looking up information on healing gum disease naturally.
    I am adding the bass brush to my amazon cart right now along with the OraMD oil to buy for my next purchase.

    Thank you for once again giving me more information on taking my health to the next level.

  28. Good info, next I’ll have to search your site and see if there is anything combating dry mouth. My mom’s dry mouth is causing her teeth to rot, it is terrible!

  29. Ideally homemade toothpaste is the best option. Buttt if you had to recommend a store toothpaste what brands do you like most?

    Thanks,

  30. Is the remineralizing toothpaste safe for children between the ages of 3-11? And do you know if the OraWellness blend is safe for that age group as well?

    • Check with your dentist if you’re concerned, but mine have used both options without any issues.

  31. Saw a post on another place, she said brush twice a day correctly of course, floss properly daily, get a rubber pointed tip to rub around gums gently. Stimulates blood. She saw results in 6 moths.
    With this sites info on natural toothpaste, brushes and techniques, maybe all of the above will bring back those gums.

  32. I am going to try thie method of brushing. I live in the Caribbean and leave this evening to go back, so can’t order the toothbrushes on this trip. On our last trip, I ordered the redmond toothpaste and started using it. My gums were pretty bad before that, but they feel much better after using Redmond. I would like to get both my husband and my teeth whiter. I will look to see if there is anything we can make that will do this, since it’s too late to order anything. I was really getting scared at one ooint with the gum issue. A friend and my mother both had surgery and I really did not want to go that direction, so it is great to know there are options for natural improvement.

  33. Wow, looked like he had a tremor! Maybe it gets easier with parkinsonism! Or violin practice.

    But seriously folks, I’m going to have to try this. I might have to support one arm with the other hand to keep the movement amplitude from becoming too great. My fine motor control using the long muscles has never been good.

  34. Wow, my story with braces is so similar! I’ve been using a baking soda/xylitol/coconut oil toothpaste with crushed mint leaves, since I don’t know where to get bentonite clay and even if I did it’s too expensive for me. Every time my swollen gums start to bleed, I coconut oil pull and my gums feel better!
    PS. I love your website! I’ve been following for a while and trying to use all of the natural remedies/tips I can from it! So thank you!

  35. I recently visited the dentist for my annual checkup and the dental hygienist could not quit talking about how great my gums are. I told her my secret when she was finished with the cleaning, I use a super soft flossing toothbrush from my natural foods store. I also have been using homemade tooth powder, based on your recipe at Wellness Mama. I sometimes don’t have all the ingredients and just go with what I have. The main ingredients are bentonite clay, baking soda, sea salt and peppermint oil. I had almost zero tarter, except the back teeth where it’s hard to reach! My gums are fantastic and my teeth are white. I use a gum cleaning brush that goes between my teeth to remove any food that is stuck. And I only brush once a day, in the morning. No cavities for 32 years. Yeah! I’ve had the same dentist for 35 years and he says I have great teeth.

    Love homemade and cheap!

  36. Several months ago I was reminded that digestion begins in the mouth. Since raw goat’s milk kefir feeds on sugars and it’s good bacteria battles the bad bacteria in the gut, I wondered if it would do the same in the mouth. For almost a year now, I have been brushing my teeth in the morning the same as usual – but just before bedtime, I swish my homemade kefir around in my mouth without rinsing. I have always had extreme plaque, especially on the inside of my lower front teeth. I am amazed at how clean and plaque-free my teeth stay. My hygenist only polished my teeth during my last visit because there was nothing to clean.

  37. I do swith on/off from CVS brand enamel building toothpaste (it works-no pain!) & then I use Trader Joes Fennel toothpaste which uses the CALCIUM CARBONATE as its main ingredient & id fluoride free.
    So…….. Is the TJ toothpaste just as effective as the chemical one I get in CVS ? Does it compare with your homemade toothpaste -since yours also uses the Calcium C ?
    Any thoughts?
    THANK YOU!

    • I haven’t tried it and don’t know the ingredient list so I can’t say. I’d just make sure it doesn’t contain vegetable glycerin.

      • The T Joes Antiplaque Toothpaste Ing list is: Calcium Carbonate, water, glycerin, xylitol, sodium cocoyl glutamate, foeniculum vulgare (fennel)oil, Myrrh Resin, hydrated silica, carrageenan, propolis wax, peppermint oil.
        So it has glycerin (not sure if vegetable). Why would this be a concern ?
        Is there anything else not great in here?
        Thanks

        • There is some evidence that glycerin (of any kind) can coat the teeth and keep mineral sin saliva from reaching the teeth. I also avoid carrageenan (here’s why) but it wouldn’t be as potentially harmful in toothpaste as in edible products.

  38. Dear Katie!

    It is not this brush, or?

    • Hi Rebecca, I removed the link because I’m not sure if that is the same brush or not as it doesn’t specifically mention the bristle shape. Looking at other products on that site makes me wonder if Bass is the brand name but not the specific type of bristles…Going to research more…

  39. What about kids and cavities? I am having the most difficult time with my small kiddos. Been using Earthpaste, to no avail. I am about ready to go back to fluoride. So frustrated. They’re too small for oil pulling.

  40. I have wanted to try activated charcoal on my 15-year-old daughter’s teeth, but she does not have smooth, well-enameled teeth–I think this may be due to not eating dairy products most of her life, due to gut issues with them, although she has eaten other calcium-rich foods–and I am concerned that the roughness of her teeth could trap the charcoal and cause it to stay on her teeth, rather than rinse away completely, or that the charcoal would actually stain her teeth rather than whiten them, perhaps permanently. Any thoughts on this, Katie?

    • I have never seen cases of the charcoal staining, but I’d ask a dentist before using if you are concerned.

  41. I’ve been looking at different bass brushes but I don’t know which to get! Which one do you recomend? Are they all created equal?

  42. What dental floss do you and your kids use? Is there a bass toothbrush for kids? I can’t find it. Thanks

  43. Gosh, I posted a question but can’t find it—frustrating.

    Bass toothbrushes…. I’m getting some along with the HealTHY Mouth synergy BUT also making some tooth powder from your recipe here. Great info!

    HOW SOFT are the Bass brushes??? There’s nothing on that site comparing there ‘softness’ to brand names that come in Soft and Ultra Soft or Super Soft.

    I hate these newer brushes on the market (& given out at dentists offices) with ‘flossing bristles’—all the manufacturers have jumped on the ‘flossing bristle’ bandwagon! It use to be that all the good brands had the ’round ended’ bristles… not anymore.

  44. Do you know if the HealThy Mouth Blend is safe for breastfeeding? I am almost certain I have gingivitis and really want to try the Orawellness products along with a natural toothpaste (earthpaste) and oil pulling but I’m concerned about the EO’s.

  45. Katie, I’m wondering what your protocol is for teething babies? When do you start having your kids brush their teeth? I have a 12 month old with eight teeth and her pediatrician is saying that we should start brushing her teeth now, but I’m not sure…and I’m not sure what kind of toothbrush to use, it seems like she’s not old enough yet for the Bass ones for kids.

    • I use the bass ones gently on my kids at that age with a very small amount of a natural homemade toothpaste.

  46. I love this article. I’m a dental hygienist and using the bass sulcular method is the best way to disrupt the colonies of bacteria that live underneath the gum line… Whether you are using a manual or sonic toothbrush, the same principles apply. I do have one thing to add though. Most of us don’t SEE the plaque, so we don’t brush well enough. . . or we don’t go back to floss the germs that are hiding in places where the brush can’t reach.
    I totally love a brand of toothpaste that stains the plaque green so it’s easy to go after. It’s plant based and won’t stain your sink or towels and clothing!

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