A healthy smile relies on good daily care for your teeth and gums. Bacteria in your mouth can cause tooth decay and gum disease, so you need to brush and clean between your teeth every day to keep bacteria under control.
Your teeth are coated with a biofilm called plaque. Plaque contains bacteria and other germs and can build up on your teeth, especially along the gumline. When you eat, some of the bacteria in the plaque use the sugar in your food to create acid. This acid can attack the hard outer enamel surface of your tooth and cause cavities to form. Brushing your teeth helps slow this cycle by reducing the amount of bacteria and germs on your teeth and along the gumline.
Brush twice per day for 2 minutes each time: When you brush, use small, circular strokes on each tooth. Brush both the inside and outside surfaces, as well as the chewing surfaces.
Use a toothpaste that has fluoride: Fluoride helps harden your enamel, helping protect it from the acids produced by plaque.
Use a toothbrush with soft bristles: Hard bristles can be harsh on your gums and may cause them to pull away from your teeth. You can use a manual or powered toothbrush. Both work well for cleaning teeth.
Cleaning Between Your Teeth
Cleaning between your teeth is important. Plaque and bits of food get trapped along the gumline and between your teeth and can cause gum disease. Gum disease can break down the connective tissues and bone that support your teeth, which can cause tooth loss.
To help prevent gum disease, clean between your teeth once per day. You can use dental floss, floss holders, water flossers, small brushes, or picks made for cleaning between your teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist can show you how to use these and help you choose a product that works for you.
A number of mouthrinses are available to help freshen breath, fight cavities, or reduce plaque. These can help, but they are not a substitute for brushing and cleaning between your teeth. They might be best used at a time separate from your usual oral health care routine. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about whether a mouthrinse would be helpful for you.
More than 200 products carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance, including toothpastes, both manual and powered toothbrushes, and between-the-teeth cleaners.
Your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. Brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day can help make that happen. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your oral health care routine.
Prepared by Anita M. Mark, senior scientific content specialist, ADA Science & Research Institute, Chicago, IL.
Disclosure. Ms. Mark did not report any disclosures.
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