Personal Tooth Care 101

In the time between your regularly scheduled check-ups and cleanings, the proper care for your teeth falls to you. It is important that you establish and maintain a good, daily regimen to keep your teeth and gums in great shape between visits.

The trouble for many people — and maybe for you, as well — is knowing what constitutes an effective dental care routine. To ensure that you are armed with the information you need to keep your mouth in great shape, we offer this basic guide. Follow it daily to keep the beautiful, healthy smile you’ve gained through your dental visits.

Brush your teeth after each meal and before going to bed. This is the cornerstone of your personal dental care routine and will do the most good of any single activity. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and a fluoride-enhanced toothpaste. On the outer and inner surfaces, brush along the gum line at a 45-degree angle using short strokes. On chewing surfaces, hold the brush flat and brush back and forth. On the inside surfaces of front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and use gentle up and down strokes with the topmost edge of the brush. Lastly, brush your tongue with a back-to-front sweeping motion to remove food particles and freshen your mouth. Remember that it takes two minutes of brushing to effectively clean your teeth.

Use dental floss to remove food particles from between your teeth every day. If you have tight contacts between your teeth that cause the floss to snag or break, a wax covered floss will make things easier. To clean, slide the floss up and down along the edge of every tooth, going slightly below the gumline. Start with your upper left back tooth and work your way across and back around to your lower left back tooth. (If you find that wrapping the floss around your fingertips creates an uncomfortable amount of pressure or you have limited mobility in your hands, there are many brands of disposable flossers you may want to try.) After flossing, you should always brush your teeth.

Replace your toothbrush or brush head (for electrics) every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles start to fray.