Guide to Home Dental Care

How To Take Care of Your Teeth

Healthy teeth are clean and free of cavities. Healthy gums are pink, firm, and free of bleeding. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, you should take the following measures:

  • Floss at least once per day. It is best to floss after brushing. Flossing removes plaque that is left behind after brushing in between the teeth and on the gums.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush for at least 2 minutes each time.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if necessary. A worn-out toothbrush will not clean your teeth as well. If you use an electric toothbrush, change heads every 3 to 4 months, as well.
  • Eat a well balanced and healthy diet. You are less likely to develop gum disease if you eat healthy foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish.
  • Avoid sweet foods and drinks that are loaded with sugar. The list of sugary products is endless, but some of the most common ones include candy, ice cream, cake, many cereals, and soda pop. Regularly consuming too much sugar significantly increases your risk of developing cavities, among other things. It’s OK to let yourself indulge in the occasional sweet treat once in a while, just try not to make it a regular habit. In addition, be sure to brush your teeth immediately after having something with a lot of sugar.
  • Do not smoke. Smokers tend to have many more problems with their teeth and gums than non-smokers.
  • Keep dentures, retainers, and any other oral appliances clean. You can usually do this by brushing them regularly. In some cases, you may also need to soak your appliances in a cleaning solution. Your dentist will provide you with more detailed cleaning instructions.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your dentist. It is recommended to have your teeth professionally cleaned every 6  months for optimal oral health. However, if your gums are particularly unhealthy, you may need to be seen every 3 to 4 months to prevent any long-term complications.

Regular teeth cleanings by a qualified dental professional will remove excess plaque that develops around your teeth. Some plaque build-up will occur even when you regularly brush and floss on your own. It often develops in areas that you cannot reach by yourself, which is where the dental team comes in. Your hygienist will use special tools to reach down into these areas. This is why it is crucial to have your teeth regularly cleaned at your dentist’s office. A professional teeth cleaning includes scaling and polishing. This procedure uses instruments to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth. Routine exams may include dental x-rays. Scheduling appointments on a regular basis will help your dentist catch and treat any problems early on, preventing them from becoming more serious and expensive to fix down the road.

What to Ask Your Dentist

  • What kind of toothbrush you should use, and how to brush your teeth well. Ask if an electric toothbrush is right for you. Electric  toothbrushes have been shown to clean teeth more effectively than manual toothbrushes. They often have a timer to let you know when you have reached the 2 minute mark.
  • How to properly floss your teeth. Overly vigorous or improper flossing may injure your gums.
  • Whether you should use any special appliances or tools, such as water irrigation. This may sometimes help supplement (but not replace) brushing and flossing.
  • Whether you could benefit from particular toothpastes or mouth rinses. In some cases, over-the-counter toothpastes and mouth washes may be doing you more harm than good, depending on your condition.

When to Call Your Dentist

Call your dentist if you have symptoms of a cavity, including:

  • Pain in the tooth that occurs for no obvious reason or is caused by food, beverages, brushing, flossing, or biting.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks.

Get early treatment for gum disease. Call your dentist if you have symptoms of gum disease, including:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding in the gums when you brush your teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Drifting teeth

Summary

It’s important to take care of your oral health starting in childhood. If you don’t, you could have problems with your teeth and gums, such as cavities or even tooth loss.

Here’s how you can keep your mouth and teeth healthy:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth every day with floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner
  • Snack smart – limit sugary snacks
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
  • See your dentist or oral health professional regularly

Courtesy of MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine