With proper care, your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life. The healthier your teeth and gums are, the less risk you have for tooth decay and gum disease.
There are four basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:
Brush teeth and gums at least twice a day. If you can, brush 30 minutes to 1 hour after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth. When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities.
Floss your teeth once a day. Flossing gets rid of food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. If plaque stays between teeth, it can harden into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist or hygienist.
Also, antibacterial mouth rinses (there are fluoride mouth rinses as well) can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.
The third part of your daily oral care routine should be mouthwash — but not just any mouthwash. Rinse daily with an antiseptic (also known as antibacterial) mouthwash to help kill bacteria that cause plaque, early gum disease, and bad breath. Fluoride-containing mouthwash helps prevent tooth decay. Some mouthwashes have both antibacterial ingredients and fluoride. Swish the rinse around in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds. You can use a mouthwash before or after you brush and floss.
For good dental health, eat a variety of foods, avoiding those that contain sugars and starches. These foods produce the most acids in the mouth, and the longer they stay in the mouth, the more they can damage the teeth. Hard “sucking candies” are especially harmful because they stay in the mouth a long time.
Snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay, because most people don’t brush after snacks. Starchy snack foods, like potato chips, stick to the teeth. Avoid snacking on: Candies, cookies, cakes, pie, sugary gum, crackers, breadsticks, chips, dried fruits and raisins.
Visit your dentist at least once every six months. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, it’s important to have regular check-ups and professional cleanings. You should also see your dentist if you have pain in your teeth or mouth or bleeding, swollen gums.
You can also ask your dentist about dental sealants. Sealant is a material used to coat the top, chewing surfaces of the back teeth. This coating protects the tooth from decay and usually lasts a long time.