Home Care

Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums

The ADA recommends the following for good oral hygiene:

Antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes reduce the bacterial count and stop bacterial activity in dental plaque, which can cause gingivitis, an early, reversible form of periodontal (gum) disease. ADA-Accepted antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes have substantiated these claims by demonstrating significant reductions in plaque and gingivitis. Fluoride mouth rinses help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Clinical studies have demonstrated that use of a fluoride mouth rinse and fluoride toothpaste can provide extra protection against tooth decay over that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone. Fluoride mouth rinse is not recommended for children age six or younger because they may swallow the rinse. Consumers should always check the manufacturers label for precautions and age recommendations and talk with their dentist about the use of fluoride mouth rinse.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. Following a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks can cause the enamel to weaken, eventually causing tooth decay. Many of the foods we eat cause plaque bacteria to produce acids. If you snack often, you could be having acid attacks all day long. Plaque that is not removed with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Plaque also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red, tender or bleed easily. After a while, gums may pull away from the teeth. Pockets form and fill with more bacteria and pus. If the gums are not treated, the bone around the teeth can be destroyed. The teeth may become loose or have to be removed. In fact, periodontal (gum) disease is a main cause of tooth loss in adults.

One way to prevent tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease is by eating a balanced diet and limiting the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

What are some tips for daily oral care?

The best way to remove decay-causing plaque is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day. Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces.

Brush your teeth twice a day, with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps protect your teeth from decay. When choosing any dental product, look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, an important symbol of a dental product's safety and effectiveness.

Cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners removes plaque from between the teeth, areas where the toothbrush can't reach. It is essential in preventing periodontal (gum) disease.

By taking care of your teeth, eating a balanced diet and visiting your dentist regularly, you can have healthy teeth and an attractive smile your entire life.

Follow these tips to keep your teeth and mouth clean:

How do I brush my teeth?

How do I floss my teeth?

People who have difficulty handling dental floss may prefer to use another kind of interdental cleaner. These aids include special brushes, picks or sticks. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist about how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.

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