You do it twice a day (we hope), and it's been a habit for years, but you might be brushing your teeth all wrong.

According to Dr. Timothy Chase, a dentist and oral health expert based in New York City, people don't always go about their dental hygiene routines properly. Mistakes can be anything from brushing too hard to using the same toothbrush for years.

Staying on top of the health of your mouth doesn't just impact your smile or breath — it can also prevent more serious diseases, like cancer. One U.K. study associated using mouthwash instead of brushing your teeth put people at an increased risk for cancer.

Other links have been made with good oral hygiene and a reduced risk for dementia, as well as heart disease.

So are you treating your mouth properly whenever you come near it with a toothbrush? Read on to see Dr. Chase's tips on how you may be messing up your tooth brushing habits:

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  • Brushing Too Much (Or Too Long)

    According to Dr. Chase, a dentist and oral care specialist in New York, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you brush your teeth too often or too long by eroding the enamel on your teeth. His suggestion is two to three times a day at the most. Most dentists recommend brushing for two minutes.

  • Going At It Too Hard

    Though teeth are strong, gums are sensitive. Brushing them too hard can cause damage, for example, by pushing back the soft tissue and exposing the root area. Dr. Chase recommends using gentle pressure, brushing with bristles angled toward the gum line and using small circular motions. He also suggests electric toothbrushes, which evens out the pressure.

  • Brushing Right After Eating

    Don't necessarily reach for the toothbrush after every meal, particularly after you've eaten something acidic. Acids can eat away at the enamel on your teeth, so let your mouth do what it does naturally and give saliva a chance to neutralize the acids for approximately 30 minutes after eating.

  • Sticking To Just Your Teeth

    The bacteria that gives you bad breath (and potentially bad health) doesn't just stay on your teeth — it's sitting there on your tongue and cheeks as well. Make sure to take a swipe of those areas when you're doing your brushing.

  • Using The Wrong Toothbrush

    Even though they may be sold in stores, you don't want to be using a medium or hard brush, says Dr. Chase. Look for toothbrushes that are labelled soft or extra soft, so as not to contribute to gum recession.

  • Keeping Your Toothbrush For Too Long

    Dr. Chase suggests changing your toothbrush every three months, as that's approximately the time it takes for bristles to lose their flexibility and wear out. But don't worry — scientists say <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/07/toothbrush-sick_n_4912966.html" target="_blank">you don't need to replace it after you've been sick</a>, since it's just your own germs on there.

  • Not Flossing

    Flossing at least once a day will help get at areas your toothbrush doesn't reach (like, well, between your teeth). Dr. Chase says you should floss at least once a day, and more often if you tend to get food stuck in your teeth. Again, you'll want to do this gently, to avoid gum damage.

  • Not Drinking Water

    Drinking water throughout the day can help get rid of food particles in the mouth. As well, says Dr. Chase, water keeps you hydrated, which helps in the production of saliva that keeps the mouth healthy and clean.

  • Not Getting Check-Ups

    Sure, it might feel like you're constantly going to see your dentist, but given that it could help diagnose anything from oral cancer to TMJ, it's important to stay on top of your appointments. The Canadian Dental Association <a href="http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/faqs/dental_care_faqs.asp#1" target="_blank">suggests an appointment every six months</a>, but notes that depending on your oral care habits, your dentist may suggest coming in more or less.

  • NEXT: The Best And Worst Foods For Your Teeth

  • WORST: Sugary Candies And Sweets

    If you must have sweets, go for those that dissolve quickly in your mouth. Candies that stick around (like lollipops, caramels, jelly beans and hard candies), make it difficult for saliva to wash the sugar away. Snacks like cookies, cakes or other desserts contain a high amount of sugar as well, which can cause tooth decay over time. If you can't resist your sweets, eat them as dessert after a main meal instead of several times a day between meals. And when possible, brush your teeth after eating anything sweet.

  • WORST: Starchy, Refined Carbs

    Chips, bread, pasta or crackers can be just as harmful to the teeth as candy. Starches made from white flour are simple carbohydrates and can linger in your mouth and break down into simple sugars. Bacteria, in turn, feed on these sugars and produce acid, which causes tooth decay.

  • WORST: Carbonated Soft Drinks

    Not only does pop contain a high amount of sugar, but both regular and diet pop also contain the mineral phosphorus, as well as carbonation that wear away and thin the enamel on your teeth. Over time, drinking a lot of pop can also cause teeth to become darker and more yellow. Bottled iced teas and lemonade, for example, are some of the biggest offenders.

  • WORST: Fruit Juice

    Although fruit is an important part of a healthy diet, fruit juice can cause problems for your teeth. If your favourite store-bought juices are loaded with sugar, your teeth can wear down. If you regularly drink fruit juices, use a straw to avoid a having a large amount of liquid in your mouth at once.

  • WORST: Citrus Fruits And Other Acidic Foods

    It’s OK to eat these kinds of foods, but don’t suck on them or keep them in your mouth for a long period of time. The acids in foods like lemons and pickles, for example, can erode the enamel of your teeth.

  • WORST: Honey And Dried Fruits

    Honey is delicious, but if it is consumed regularly it can cause tooth decay. The same goes for dried fruits like raisins, apricots, pineapple, etc. Dried fruit has highly concentrated sugars, and its gummy-like texture can cling to teeth just like candy.

  • WORST: Sports And Vitamin Waters

    Even so-called health drinks are brimming with danger for your teeth. Sports drinks are acidic and full of sugar, while some vitamin waters contain as much sugar as candy bars. Chewable vitamins – from multivitamins to large chewable vitamin C tablets – also contain a concentrated acid that tends to cling to and between teeth.

  • BEST: Fibre-Rich Fruits And Veggies

    High-fibre foods work like a detergent in the mouth, not only physically “scrubbing” the teeth, but also stimulating saliva flow. Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense, because it neutralizes tooth-damaging acids, and contains calcium and phosphates that help rebuild minerals leached away by bacterial acids. Try fruits and vegetables with a high water content like apples, carrots and celery to clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath.

  • BEST: Water

    Are you really surprised with this one? When it comes to oral health, water is indispensable. It’s the primary component of saliva, and is important to both tooth and gum health.

  • BEST: Dairy Products

    The calcium, phosphates and vitamin D in cheese, milk and other dairy products are important minerals for oral health. Your teeth are made mostly of calcium, and without enough in your diet, you lower your resistance and increase your risk of developing tooth decay and other problems. Are you vegan? There are many calcium-fortified juices, soy milks and other foods available that can supply as much calcium to your diet as milk does.

  • BEST: Sugarless Gum

    Chewing sugarless gums or mints after meals and snacks can help rinse harmful acid off your teeth to help you preserve tooth enamel. On the flip side, chewing gum containing sugar may actually increase your chances of developing a cavity.

  • BEST: Green And Black Teas

    Green and black teas contain compounds called polyphenols that interact with plaque and uppress harmful bacteria, preventing them from growing or producing tooth-attacking acid. This not only helps to prevent cavities, but also reduces inflammation and the chances of gum disease.

  • BEST: Nuts

    Many nuts provide vitamins and minerals that help your teeth. These include peanuts (calcium and vitamin D), almonds (high levels of calcium that help both teeth and gums), cashews (stimulate saliva and help clean teeth) and walnuts (fibre, folic acid, iron, thiamine, magnesium, iron, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium and zinc).

  • BEST: Other Healthy Foods

    Food rich in vitamins A, C, and D as well as calcium and phosphorus, are all good for your teeth overall. Try eating more beef, eggs, fish, potatoes, spinach, fortified cereals, tofu, leafy green vegetables, beans, whole grains and poultry.

  • NEXT: DIY Options For Teeth Whitening

  • Strawberries

    Strawberries may help whiten teeth because they contain an enzyme called malic acid, which can be found in some whitening toothpastes, said Louisa Maccan-Graves, celebrity beauty expert and author of "Hollywood Beauty Secrets: Remedies to the Rescue," told AOL Health. You can mash up the strawberry or just rub it on your teeth, cut in half. Leave the juice on your teeth for one minute and then rinse with water, said Maccan-Graves. Dr. Steven Roth, cosmetic and implant dentistry expert, agreed, stating that the fiber in strawberries also behaves as a natural cleaner by removing bacteria from the teeth and mouth. <strong>More From Aol Health.</strong>: <a href="http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/01/29/anti-aging-food/" target="_hplink">Anti-Aging Foods </a> <a href="http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/03/30/improve-your-memory/" target="_hplink">Improve Your Memory</a> <a href="http://www.aolhealth.com/2011/01/07/25-easy-instant-energy-boosters" target="_hplink">25 Easy Instant Energy Boosters</a>

  • Apples, Celery And Carrots

    According to Dr. Jeffrey Gross, who teaches in the graduate periodontal program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, these fruits and veggies act like natural stain removers. The reason: They increase saliva production, which is the body's built-in cleaning agent. "It may sound hard to believe, but some people swear that rubbing raw carrot sticks on your teeth will make them look brighter," said Gross. The added bonus: "These foods are high in vitamin C, which prevents gum disease and gingivitis and kills odor-causing bacteria," Dr. Michael Apa, who specializes in cosmetic dentistry and facial aesthetics in New York City, told AOL Health.

  • Citrus Fruit

    Citrus fruit, such as oranges and pineapples, also cause the mouth to produce more saliva, which help clean the teeth and whiten your smile, said Apa. Lemons, in particular, are particularly good for teeth whitening. "Just as they naturally 'bleach' your hair, lemons will lighten and brighten your teeth," Roth told AOL Health. He suggested rinsing with half water, half lemon juice once or twice a week. However, do not rinse with this concoction more than two times a week and do not rinse with straight lemon juice. "Overdoing it would be too acidic, which can be damaging to the teeth."

  • Yogurt, Milk And Cheese

    "Dairy products have lactic acid, which decreases gum disease and maintains development and maintenance of teeth," said Apa. "Even the milk in coffee counts -- and it has the added benefit of [decreasing] coffee's staining ability." Along with protecting and strengthening the enamel, hard cheeses, like cheddar, are more effective at cleaning and whitening the teeth than softer cheeses, since hard cheese helps remove other food particles. "And keep in mind that dairy products and foods fortified with calcium and vitamin D are important not only for healthy teeth but your jawbone, the foundation for your teeth," added Apa.

  • Baking Soda

    All of the experts agreed that baking soda is one of the strongest -- and safest -- whitening ingredients out there because it's an acid neutralizer that gently removes stains and buildup from the enamel. If this mild abrasive agent is not already mixed into your toothpaste, you can sprinkle a bit on top of your paste each day. Roth also suggested brushing with straight baking soda twice a month. "This is similar to what your dental hygienist does."

  • A Straw

    When drinking dark beverages, like soda or grape juice, Roth suggested sipping them through a straw. "The straw allows food dyes to bypass teeth altogether."

  • Hydrogen Peroxide

    Gross and Maccan-Graves both stated that rinsing with this antiseptic a couple of times a month can also brighten your smile, thanks to its oxidizing agents. Many mouthwashes are alcohol based, but hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic. "Mouthwash kills existing bacteria, but hydrogen peroxide prevents the growth of bacteria," said Gross. "You can gargle daily with hydrogen peroxide, but it always needs to be done in a 50/50 solution with water. Hydrogen peroxide is good for preventing infections and can also be helpful for preventing bad breath, which is often caused by bacteria." Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide with water (about one tablespoon each) and swish around teeth for 60 seconds. "After a minute, spit it out, leaving the bubbling and whitening action of the peroxide [to] sit on teeth for another minute or two, then rinse mouth with water," said Maccan-Graves.

  • Brush And Strip

    Apa advised brushing daily with a whitening toothpaste. "Crest Weekly Clean is a good product because it contains heavy silica ingredients that work to brush stains away," he said. Most over-the-counter whitening strips contain a peroxide-based whitening gel to brighten teeth, and Apa recommends Crest 2-Hour Express Whitestrips, which are made with an advanced-seal, no-slip technology that allows you to talk, drink water and go about your day. <strong>More From Aol Health.</strong>: <a href="http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/01/29/anti-aging-food/" target="_hplink">Anti-Aging Foods </a> <a href="http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/03/30/improve-your-memory/" target="_hplink">Improve Your Memory</a> <a href="http://www.aolhealth.com/2011/01/07/25-easy-instant-energy-boosters" target="_hplink">25 Easy Instant Energy Boosters</a>



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Brushing Too Much (Or Too Long)
According to Dr. Chase, a dentist and oral care specialist in New York, you can actually end up doing more harm than good if you brush your teeth too often or too long by eroding the enamel on your teeth. His suggestion is two to three times a day at the most. Most dentists recommend brushing for two minutes.

Going At It Too Hard
Though your teeth are strong, your gums are sensitive. Brushing them too hard can cause damage, for example, by pushing back the soft tissue and exposing the root area. Dr. Chase recommends using gentle pressure, brushing with bristles angled toward the gum line and using small circular motions. He also suggests electric toothbrushes, which evens out the pressure.

Brushing Right After Eating
Don't necessarily reach for the toothbrush after every meal, particularly after you've eaten something acidic. Acids can eat away at the enamel on your teeth, so let your mouth do what it does naturally and give saliva a chance to neutralize the acids for approximately 30 minutes after eating.

Sticking To Just Your Teeth
The bacteria that gives you bad breath (and potentially bad health) doesn't just stay on your teeth — it's sitting there on your tongue and cheeks as well. Make sure to take a swipe of those areas when you're doing your brushing.

Using The Wrong Toothbrush
Even though they may be sold in stores, you don't want to be using a medium or hard brush, says Dr. Chase. Look for toothbrushes that are labelled soft or extra soft, so as not to contribute to gum recession.

Keeping Your Toothbrush For Too Long
Dr. Chase suggests changing your toothbrush every three months, as that's approximately the time it takes for bristles to lose their flexibility and wear out. But don't worry — scientists say you don't need to replace it after you've been sick, since it's just your own germs on there.

Not Flossing
Flossing at least once a day will help get at areas your toothbrush doesn't reach (like, well, between your teeth). Dr. Chase says you should floss at least once a day, and more often if you tend to get food stuck in your teeth. Again, you'll want to do this gently, so as not to damage the gums.

Not Drinking Water
Drinking water throughout the day can help get rid of food particles in the mouth. As well, says Dr. Chase, water keeps you hydrated, which helps in the production of saliva that keeps the mouth healthy and clean.

Not Getting Check-Ups
Sure, it might feel like you're constantly going to see your dentist, but given that it could help diagnose anything from oral cancer to TMJ, it's important to stay on top of your appointments. The Canadian Dental Association suggests an appointment every six months, but notes that depending on your oral care habits, your dentist may suggest coming in more or less.