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If tooth brushing were a televised sport, the commentators would have a field day with the ridiculously individualized brushing styles each one of us has developed over the years. And yes, some of our styles are more effective than others.
To start with, most of us don't brush for long enough. Studies have shown that most of us brush for only 30 seconds, while dentists and other experts tend to brush from 2 to 4 minutes, that's at least 4 times the brushing action!
Your toothbrush grip also matters. One Finnish study has found that using a pen-like grip, as opposed to the common tennis racquet-like grip, is just as effective at removing plaque but is also much less likely to damage your gums as you're less likely to brush too hard.
However, should you brush up and down or in circles? Actually, it doesn't really matter as much as the duration of your brushing and whether you brush too hard and cause damage to your gums. Go with whatever motion you're most comfortable with.
Finally, even if you're out of toothpaste you can still get the most important benefit of brushing, the removal of plaque, by simply brushing with plain water.
Remember, your daily brushing is the most important and effective part of your individual dental plan.