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Everyone wants to enjoy the benefits of tip-top oral hygiene: a pearly white smile, fresh-smelling breath, and healthy pink gums. Making sure your mouth stays healthy is a major reason for visiting the dentist — and there’s nothing like that squeaky-clean feeling you get all around your mouth after you’ve had a routine checkup and a professional cleaning! Hopefully, you see your dentist twice a year; but in between visits, it’s up to you to maintain a healthy mouth.
Taken together over the course of a lifetime, these practices can help everyone improve their oral health, and get all the benefits that come with it: a great-looking smile and a healthier body.
1) Do use the right toothbrush
That means a soft-bristled multi-tufted toothbrush, with a head that’s small enough to get comfortably all around your mouth, and a handle that’s easy to grip. If you have trouble holding a regular brush (due to arthritis, for example), you might want to consider getting a good-quality power toothbrush.
2) Don’t brush too hard or too often (more than twice a day)
If brushing twice a day is good, then three times a day is better… right? Wrong! Brushing too often — or too hard — can cause gum recession, and damage the root surfaces of the teeth by abrading them. Exposed roots may be quite sensitive and at greater risk for decay.
3) Do floss at least once a day
It’s been said many times, many ways… and it’s still true. Flossing is the best way to remove plaque in places where your brush just can’t reach: in between the teeth. Plaque that isn’t removed leads to tooth decay and gum disease.
4) Do the tongue test to check cleanliness of teeth
Run your tongue all over the surfaces of your teeth, front and back. If they feel nice and smooth — especially down at the gum line — chances are you’ve done a good brushing job.
5) Do inform your dentist if you notice bleeding gums or lumps, bumps, ulcers
Many times, changes in the environment of your mouth are harmless — but some could be early warnings of disease. Be sure to let your dentist know when you notice anything unusual: bleeding, sensitivity, pain, discoloration, a sore or a lump, or any other signs or symptoms that are not normal.
6) Do use fluoride toothpaste
Scientific research has consistently shown that fluoride is not only effective at preventing cavities — it can also repair tooth enamel. Fluorine is a naturally occurring element that is perfectly safe when used as directed.
7) Don’t start bad oral health habits
Some of these you already know: using any tobacco products, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, and chewing on pencils or fingernails — all have negative consequences for your oral health. Other bad habits are less well-known.
8) Do drink enough water
Keeping your mouth moist is really important. Mouth dryness increases biofilm (plaque) accumulation and your risk for both tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Mouth dryness is caused by smoking, alcohol, caffeine and especially some over-the-counter and prescription drugs.