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Oral Health Tips

Maintaining good oral health requires more than regular dental checkups. Practicing good dental hygiene between visits is essential for preventing cavities and protecting your teeth and gums. Brushing, flossing, and nutrition are the three cornerstones of good oral health at home.

How to Brush Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth is the foundation of oral health maintenance. You should brush twice a day: once after breakfast, and again immediately before bed. Never eat or drink anything other than water after brushing at night. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and replace it every four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Use an ADA-approved toothpaste that contains fluoride to strengthen the protective coating on your teeth.

Follow these steps for proper brushing technique:

  1. Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  2. Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
  3. Brush over the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  4. To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

How to Floss Your Teeth

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the ADA, only 4 out of 10 Americans floss at least once a day. Flossing is one of the best ways to lower your risk of periodontal (gum) disease. Early gum disease, or gingivitis, is one of the most common infectious diseases, affecting over 47% of adults over age 30, and 70% of adults over age 65. Severe gum disease can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, resulting in bone loss and potentially tooth loss. Also, gum disease is frequently related to other serious health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

Use this step-by-step guide to properly floss your teeth:

  • Break off 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the opposite hand.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
  • Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.
  • When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
  • Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with an up and down motion.
  • Draw the floss down and out from between the teeth, and then wind the used section of floss around your finger. Unwind a new, clean section of floss from the finger on the other hand to use on the next tooth.
  • Repeat this process for each tooth, including the back edge of your last molar.
  • When finished, throw the floss away. Never reuse floss.

If you find it awkward or difficult to floss, ask your dental hygienist about interdental cleaning devices. There are many options that may be easier for you to use. Always use cleaning products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance so you know they have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness.

How to Help Children Brush Their Teeth

Just like adults, children should brush twice a day and floss once a day to keep teeth and gums healthy. Use a child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush, and replace it every three months. For children under age three, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice. For children ages three to six, use a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Use these tips to encourage children to learn good oral health habits:

  • Make brushing fun. You can use a timer or sing a two-minute song to make toothbrushing a fun part of your child’s day.
  • Stick with the routine. If you let brushing slide when your child is tired or on vacation, it’ll be harder for your child to keep the habit.
  • Use rewards. A sticker chart or small prizes can be really motivating for some kids. Make the extra effort to help your child know that tooth brushing is a priority!
  • Set a good example. Your children learn by watching you, so brushing your own teeth regularly is one of the best ways to teach them to do the same.

How to Eat for Dental Health

Good nutrition is one of the best ways you can support your family’s oral health between dentist visits. A balanced diet helps reduce plaque buildup and keep your teeth strong.

Here’s the best diet for oral health:

  • Eat calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, salmon, almonds, and dark leafy greens. Calcium is one of the building blocks for strong teeth and bones.
  • Phosphorus-rich foods such as eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts and beans help your body absorb and use the calcium in your diet.
  • Enjoy foods with vitamin C, such as citrus, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and spinach, to strengthen your gums and help prevent gingivitis.
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