Cleaning Your Teeth & Gums
Like most people, you know that having a clean mouth
is important. It makes you feel good about yourself. It gives you
fresh breath and a nicer-looking smile. Since childhood, you've probably
heard that brushing and flossing your teeth daily are necessary for
good dental health. But like many people, you may not be sure why.
Brushing and flossing remove a thin sticky film of bacteria that
grows on your teeth. This sticky film, called plaque, is the main
cause of tooth decay and gum disease. How can bacteria cause so many
The plaque problem
Many of the foods you eat cause the bacteria in your
mouth to produce acids. Sugared foods, such as candy and cookies,
are not the only culprits. Starches, such as bread, crackers, and
cereal, also cause acids to form. If you snack often, you could be
having acid attacks all day long. After many acid attacks, your teeth
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, gum disease is a main cause of tooth loss in adults.
One way to prevent tooth decay and 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.
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
Cleaning between the teeth with floss or interdental
cleaners removes plaque from between the teeth, areas where the toothbrush
can't reach. It is essential in preventing 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:
your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
Move the brush back and forth gently in short (toothwide)
Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces,
and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
Use the "toe" of the brush to clean the
inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your
off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your
Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of
the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes
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.
the floss reaches the gumline, 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 up
and down motions.
Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth. Don't
forget the back side of your last tooth.
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
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