Mouths are full of bacteria. While most of it is harmless, brushing and flossing helps to keep the bacteria level in your mouth under control. But without daily care, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
So, what exactly are we doing when we brush our teeth? Brushing your teeth reduces the impact of bacteria that can form acids that damage your teeth. Here are some tips on brushing:
- Take your time! The American Dental Association says you should take two minutes to brush your teeth. You want to cover the front, back and top of every tooth.
- Use a circular motion, with short strokes.
- Brush gently around your gum line.
- Replace toothbrushes at least once every 3 months or when the bristles get frayed.
Should You Plug In? Electric vs. Manual
Experts agree that you don't need to use an electric toothbrush to clean your teeth well. But some studies have shown that electric toothbrushes may be more effective in reducing plaque and gum inflammation than standard toothbrushes. Electric versions might also be easier for seniors who have trouble brushing.
Don't Forget Flossing
While there's no hard evidence that flossing prevents serious gum disease, most dentists agree flossing helps promote a healthy mouth by helping to remove plaque from the sides of your teeth. Those who don't floss seem to have higher rates of red and inflamed gums. According to Dr. Tim Iafolla, a dental expert at the National Institutes of Health, "every dentist in the country can look in someone's mouth and tell whether or not they floss." It's cheap and quick. Keep flossing in your routine.
Eating for Healthy Teeth
Healthy eating can help you keep healthy teeth. While there's no evidence that apples will really keep the dentist away, fruits and vegetables do increase saliva production. This can help make your mouth less acidic for your teeth. Peanuts and cheese do this as well. And of course, eating less sugar really does protect your teeth. One study found soft drinks, which are high in sugar and highly acidic, seemed to promote dental erosion.
Using and Choosing Mouthwash
According to the American Dental Association, mouthwash is only effective if it kills bacteria. There are certain types of mouthwash that have been shown to reduce plaque and gingivitis. The ADA recommends choosing a mouthwash that has the ADA Seal of Approval. And keep in mind that mouthwash is not a replacement for brushing.
Healthy Teeth for the Long Haul
There's no question that, as you get older, there's a higher likelihood you'll have issues with your teeth. But the evidence is also clear that people who take care in their oral health have fewer serious problems with their teeth and gums.
Most people have a dentist and a doctor. So, it can be natural to think of our teeth and gums separately from our overall health. We brush and floss just to avoid cavities.
But the fact is your oral health can affect your general health. Make sure you are seeing your dentist regularly to catch any dental problems early on when treatment is likely to be simpler and more affordable. Those visits also help prevent many problems from developing in the first place.