Practicing proper oral hygiene is essential for preventing cavities and gum disease, which can lead to pain, tooth loss and other health issues. Maintaining good oral health is especially important if you have diabetes, are an older adult or are pregnant.
To help you attack harmful plague, protect your teeth, stay healthier, and maybe even feel more confident when a cameraperson tells you to smile and “say cheese,” follow these tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Brush your teeth. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and toothpaste with fluoride, a mineral that helps protect teeth from decay. Brush your teeth two times every day and for about two minutes each time. Brush in circles, and use short, back-and-forth strokes. Take time to brush gently along the gum line, and don’t forget to brush your tongue. You should get a new toothbrush every three to four months, but if yours is wearing out, replace its sooner.
Floss every day. Flossing every day removes plaque and any food between teeth that your toothbrush missed. Rinse your mouth with water afterwards. If you aren’t sure how to floss, ask the dentist or dental assistant to show you at your next visit.
Get regular checkups. Visit a dentist once or twice a year for a checkup and cleaning. Teeth cleanings can also help remove stains. If you have problems with your teeth or mouth, see a dentist immediately.
Some people fear going to the dentist, but you can help make your next visit easier by letting your dentist know you’re nervous, choosing an appointment time when you won’t feel rushed, or bringing headphones and a music player with you.
Cut down on sugary foods and drinks. Choose low-sugar snacks like vegetables, fruits and low-fat or fat-free cheese. Drink fewer sugary sodas and other drinks that can lead to tooth decay.
Quit tobacco. People who use tobacco in any form, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, are at higher risk for tooth decay and stains, gum disease and oral cancer. Talk to your doctor for ways to help you quit tobacco.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your risk for oral cancer. If you choose to drink, have only a moderate amount. This means no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
By practicing these habits, you’re likely to have a brighter, healthier smile.