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Brush Up on the Benefits of Brushing

As an adult, you’ve been brushing your teeth for years. You may believe you’re doing it right, but it’s easy to fall into bad habits. You’re rushed in the morning and may cut corners sometimes; we all do it. You just want to get rid of your morning breath before going to work. Your future dental health is probably the last thing on your mind. Going over the basics of brushing again can’t hurt. Brushing correctly can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, so it’s worth spending an extra minute or two to do it right.

Why Are Good Tooth Brushing Habits So Important?

Brushing your teeth at least twice a day will keep your breath smelling fresh and your teeth from appearing dingy. Many foods and beverages can stain your teeth. While this is why most adults brush and floss their teeth, proper tooth brushing techniques are vital for maintaining your oral health. Brushing and flossing removes plaque, which causes cavities and gum disease. More adults lose teeth to gum disease than for any other reason. Good tooth brushing habits can literally save your teeth.

If you take care of your teeth, they will take care of you. Healthy teeth help you chew, speak clearly and smile with confidence. Staying away from sugary foods and drinks will also help protect your teeth. Without healthy teeth, it’s hard to chew certain foods and you’ll hesitate to smile.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is the sticky, thin film of bacteria that covers your teeth after you eat or drink. Plaque will mix with starches and sugars to produce an acid that can attack your teeth. If you don’t brush plaque off often, it will start to eat away at tooth enamel and create cavities. Plaque near your gum line that you don’t reach will harden into calculus, more commonly called tartar. Tartar will irritate your gums, causing gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums will appear puffy, they may feel tender and they may bleed when you brush your teeth. Bleeding gums when you brush is not normal.

Eventually, the gums will pull away from the teeth as the bacteria gets under the gum line. This causes a more serious form of gum disease, known as periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is an infection which can damage your jawbone and the tissues keeping your teeth in your mouth. Without treatment to stop the infection from getting worse, your teeth will become lose and possibly fall out. The infection can also increase your chance of developing serious heart and lung conditions.

How to Brush Your Teeth the Right Way

The American Dental Association offers these recommendations to make your brushing highly effective:

Brushing Frequency

Brush at least two times a day; after every meal is ideal. If you are unable to brush your teeth right after a meal, rinse your mouth with water instead or chew sugarless gum. When you eat acid foods, it weakens your teeth. You don’t want to damage them further by forgetting to brush right away. The ADA says about 30 percent of Americans don’t brush at least twice a day. Fortunately, the nearly 70 percent who brush twice or more a day are brushing for almost two minutes on average. It should take at least two minutes to brush effectively. Set a timer if you need to; you’ll be amazed how long two minutes really is.

How to Brush

Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush each tooth in the front, on the back and on the chewing surface. Do not rinse, just spit after brushing as more fluoride from the toothpaste will remain in your mouth.

You can brush your teeth more than twice a day. Brushing three times a day is ideal for limiting bacterial growth in your mouth. If your breath isn’t fresh right after a meal, try chewing some sugarless gum or rinsing your mouth with water until it is safe to brush.

Your Toothpaste and Toothbrush

Use a small amount of ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. There are various types for sensitive teeth, teeth whitening and tarter control. If you want to use an herbal toothpaste without fluoride, ask your dentist about how to replace the fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with rounded bristles, not a medium or hard one. Soft bristles bend, making it easier to clean hard-to-reach places. If you have crooked teeth, there are extra soft toothbrushes to reach more of the surface area of your teeth. You should replace your toothbrush every four months or so. If you use an electric toothbrush, replace the head every four months. Worn bristles don’t clean well. Rinse your toothbrush well after each use and let it air dry in an upright position. Don’t put your toothbrush in a covered container unless it is completely dry.

Flossing

Floss once a day before or after brushing your teeth. If you floss after brushing, bits of food you removed can remain in your mouth, so be sure to rinse well. There are various types of floss; use whatever is the most comfortable. Flossing is essential to reach plaque between the teeth that toothbrushes can’t reach. According to the ADA, 20 percent of Americans never floss and less than half floss daily.

Mouthrinses

Use a mouthrinse if your dentist recommends one. He or she may suggest a fluoride, antiseptic or breath freshening mouth rinse. Look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which indicates the product has been proven effective at what it is supposed to do, such as control plaque or reduce tooth decay.

Regular Dental Checkups

See your dentist every six months for an exam and professional dental cleaning. The dentist or dental hygienist can answer any of your brushing or flossing questions. He or she may also point out any areas you’re not reaching.

Make a Difference in Your Dental Health

Brushing your teeth may not seem like a big deal, but it can make a real difference in your overall oral health. Brushing two minutes a day in the morning and evening can help you keep your natural teeth. Regular dental checkups and dental cleanings are also essential to maintaining good oral health. Isn’t your smile worth the effort?

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