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This page was updated on 
October 20, 2004

 

Brush your teeth at least 2 to 3 times per day, and floss at least daily.

I know it sounds like the common sense you were taught during your childhood, but many of us are still skipping our brushing sessions.

We all know that not brushing and flossing enough can lead to tooth decay and gum problem, leaving you with a less than perfect smile and bad breath, but it can even affect your overall health.  Bacteria (and viruses) can enter the blood stream through your gums and cause infections in other parts of the body.  Some studies have shown that people with oral infections have a higher rate of heart problems, and women with oral infections have a higher rate of prematurely born babies.  (The results of these studies aren't perfectly clear yet; more testing needs to be done, but it's a good idea to consider the results of these early studies in your daily health routine.)

So what should be included in your daily dental routine?  First of all, never share a toothbrush or a rinse cup (even if it's rinsed out).  (Some people also recommend getting your own tube of toothpaste since the tube may touch the brush when dispensing the toothpaste, but I don't get that extreme.)  Use a soft bristled tooth brush, and change it every three months or sooner if it starts looking worn.  Brush your teeth at least twice a day (morning and night).  Brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking when possible.  (Brushing your teeth after breakfast is better than brushing before breakfast.)  Always brush your teeth before you go to bed because we produce less saliva during our sleep and are more prone to damage from bacteria.  When you brush your teeth, use a toothpaste with fluoride (approved by the American Dental Association), hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle toward the gum line, don't brush too hard (or else you'll scratch your gums up), and make sure you get to every surface.  Don't forget to brush your tongue.  Brush for at least two minutes to ensure that the fluoride has a chance to do its job.  Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly and let it dry out (don't put a cover on it or soak it).  (Another way to avoid germ growth on your toothbrush is to make sure your toilet lid is down when you flush.  Believe it or not, flushing with the toilet lid up contributes to spreading bacteria, and in the bathroom it can end up on your toothbrush.)  Floss your teeth, including behind your back teeth, at least once a day (preferably before you go to bed), and don't forget to rinse your mouth after you floss.  You can also use a rinse or mouthwash if you like.

Sources:  http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/factsheets/sgr2000-fs4.htm, http://www.ada.org/public/topics/cleaning_faq.asp