With proper care, your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life.
The healthier your teeth and gums are, the less risk you have for tooth decay and gum disease.
How Should I Care for My Teeth and Gums?
There are four basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:
- Eating right
- Visiting the dentist
1. Tips for Brushing
Brush at least twice a day. If you can, brush after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth.
When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities. To brush:
- Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
- Move the brush across the teeth using a small circular motion. Continue with this motion cleaning one tooth at a time.
- Brush across the top of the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Make sure the bristles get into the groves and crevices.
- Use the same small circular motion to clean the backside of the upper and lower teeth – the side that faces the tongue..
- Give your tongue a few gentle brush strokes, brushing from the back of your tongue forward. Do not scrub.
This helps remove bacteria and freshens your breath.
- Replace your toothbrush with a new one every 3 to 4 months
2. Tips for Flossing
Floss once a day. Flossing gets rid of food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach.
If plaque stays between teeth, it can harden into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist. To floss:
* Remove about an 18-inch strip of floss from the dispenser.
* Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving a 1-inch section open for flossing. Floss the top teeth first, then the bottom.
* Place the floss in your mouth and use your index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Be careful not to push too hard and injure the gums.
* Move the floss up and down against the tooth and up and around the gum line. The floss should form a C-shape around the tooth as you floss.
* Floss between each tooth as well as behind the back teeth.
* Use a clean section of floss as needed and take up used floss by winding it around the fingers.
3. Tips for Eating Right
Eat a variety of foods but eat fewer foods that contain sugars and starches. These foods produce the most acids in the mouth and the longer they stay in the mouth, the more they can damage the teeth. Hard "sucking candies" are especially harmful because they stay in the mouth a long time.
Snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay because most people don't brush after snacks. Starchy snack foods, like potato chips, stick to the teeth. Avoid snacking on:
- Candies, cookies, cakes and pie
- Sugary gum
- Crackers, breadsticks and chips
- Dried fruits and raisins
4. Dental Check-Up
Visit your dentist at least once every six months. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, it's important to have regular check-ups and professional cleanings. You should also see your dentist if you have pain in your teeth or mouth or bleeding, swollen gums.
When should my child start seeing a dentist?
By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems.
If he or she thinks your child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months after the first primary teeth appear, whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.
Experts recommend that your child's dental care start at 12 months of age. If your baby has dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem, see your pediatric dentist right away.