How Long Do You *Actually* Need to Brush Your Teeth For?

Hint: Most people aren’t brushing long enough.

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Let’s face it: When it comes to good oral hygiene, most of us are far from perfect. You may not floss every day or know how to pick the right toothbrush. You may even forget to visit your dentist regularly. #Oops.

Still, you know the importance of keeping your teeth healthy—especially when faced with the signs of gum disease.

Another oral care faux pas that most of us are guilty of is not brushing long enough. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, most people brush only 45 to 70 seconds a day. That’s a far cry from expert recommendations of 120 seconds daily.

“It’s very important to brush for at least two minutes twice a day,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, a dentist in New York City.

Not brushing for at least two minutes doesn’t serve your tooth cleaning sesh justice. It’s like taking a shower for two minutes instead of 10—you’re going to miss some spots.

Here’s why: Brushing your teeth goes beyond just avoiding offensive breath. The smell is actually just one of the symptoms of the bacteria buildup in your mouth. Your teeth contain this filmy substance known as plaque, according to the American Dental Association. Plaque contains bacteria that releases acids that wear down your tooth enamel.

Letting plaque build up on your teeth can lead to a slew of dental problems: bleeding, tooth pain, cavities, stained teeth, gingivitis, and over time, even loss of teeth. No. Thanks.

Ready to invest in a little more tooth brushing time?

Try singing “Happy Birthday” (in your head, obviously) while you brush your teeth. “It takes two minutes to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ You sing happy birthday in your head, while you’re brushing, you know you’ve brushed long enough,” says Dr. Jablow.

You can also invest in a special toothbrush that actually times you as you brush your teeth. “I’m such a big fan of the Sonic toothbrushes that are on the market now,” says Dr. Jablow. “It divides your mouth into quadrants, meaning upper-lower-upper-lower, and it beeps every 30 seconds to tell you to move onto the next quadrant.”