Caring for your teeth
Taking Care of Your Teeth
The most important thing you can do is to brush and floss your teeth each day.
Most mouth woes are caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky layer of bacteria, bits of food and other organic matter that forms on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque make acids that cause cavities. Plaque also leads to periodontal (gum) disease. This can become a serious infection. It can damage bone and destroy the tissues around your teeth.
The best defense is to remove plaque before it has a chance to build up and cause problems. Brushing removes plaque from the large surfaces of the teeth and from just under the gums. Flossing removes plaque from between your teeth. You also can use other tools to keep your mouth and teeth clean.
Brushing TipsThere are different ways to brush correctly. Your dentist or dental hygienist can show you the method that might be best for you.
Brush at least twice a day — One of those times should be just before you go to bed. When you sleep, your mouth gets drier. This makes it easier for acids from bacteria to attack your teeth. Also try to brush in the morning, either before or after breakfast. After breakfast is better. That way, bits of food are removed. But if you eat in your car or at work, or skip breakfast, brush first thing in the morning. This will get rid of the plaque that built up overnight.
Brush no more than three times a day — Brushing after lunch will give you a good midday cleaning. But brushing too often can damage your gums.
Brush lightly — Brushing too hard can damage your gums. It can cause them to recede (move away from the teeth). Plaque attaches to teeth like jam sticks to a spoon. It can't be totally removed
by rinsing, but a light brushing will do the trick. Once plaque has hardened into calculus (tartar), brushing can't remove it. If you think you might brush too hard, hold your toothbrush the same way you hold a pen. This encourages a lighter stroke.
Brush for at least two minutes — Set a timer if you have to, but don't skimp on brushing time. Two minutes is the minimum time you need to clean all of your teeth. Many people brush for the length of a song on the radio. That acts as a good reminder to brush each tooth thoroughly.
Have a standard routine for brushing — Try to brush your teeth in the same order every day. This can help you cover every area of your mouth. If you do this routinely, it will become second nature. For example, you can brush the outer sides of your teeth from left to right across the top, then move to the inside and brush right to left. Repeat the pattern for your lower teeth.
Always use a toothbrush with soft or extra-soft bristles — The harder the brush, the greater the risk of harming your gums.
Change your toothbrush regularly — Throw away your old toothbrush after three months or when the bristles start to flare, whichever comes first. If your bristles flare much sooner than every three months, you may be brushing too hard. Try easing up.
Choose a brush that has a seal of approval by the American Dental Association — The type of brush you use isn't nearly as important as brushing the right way and doing it twice a day. Any approved brush will be a good tool, but you have to know how to use it.
Electric is fine, but not always necessary — Electric or power-assisted toothbrushes are a fine alternative to manual brushes. They are especially useful for people who don't always use proper brushing techniques. They also are a good choice for people with physical limitations that make brushing difficult. Use a powered toothbrush for at least two minutes, and don't press too hard.
Here are a few general pointers
Floss once a day — Most dentists
recommend flossing at least once
a day. If you tend to get food
trapped between teeth, you can
floss more often.
Take your time — Don't rush.
Choose your own time — Most people find that just before bed is an ideal time to floss. But it's best to find the time that's most convenient for you. That way, you are more likely to floss regularly.
Don't skimp on the floss — Use as much floss as you need to clean both sides of every tooth with a fresh section. In fact, you may need to floss one tooth several times (using fresh sections of floss) to remove all the food. Some professionals think that reusing sections of floss may move bacteria from one tooth to another.
Choose the type that works best for you — There are many types of floss: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, ribbon and thread. Try a few before you settle on one to use every day. Waxed floss works better in people with very closely spaced teeth. Tougher, shred-resistant varieties of floss work well for people with rough tooth edges.
How to Floss
Hold the floss in whatever way you prefer. The most common method is to wind the floss around your middle fingers. Then pull it tight and guide it with your index fingers. You also can wind it around your index fingers and guide it with your thumb and middle fingers. Some people just hold the ends of the floss, or use a floss-guiding tool. (If you have a fixed bridge, a bridge threader can help guide floss under the bridge for better cleaning.)
How you hold the floss is not as important as what you do with it. If you can't settle on a good method, ask your dentist or hygienist for suggestions.
Hold the floss so that a short segment is ready to work with.
Guide the floss gently between two teeth. If the fit is tight, use a back-and-forth motion to work the floss through the narrow spot. Do not snap the floss; you could cut your gums.
Hold the floss around the front and back of one tooth, making it into a "C" shape. This will wrap the floss around the side edge of that tooth.
Gently move the floss toward the base of the tooth and into the space between the tooth and gum.
Move the floss up and down with light to firm pressure to skim off plaque from the tooth. Do not press so hard that you injure the gum.
Repeat for all sides of the tooth, including the outermost side of the last tooth. Advance the floss to a clean segment for each tooth edge.
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