Your dazzling smile is usually the first thing others notice about you. Sparkling clean teeth and fresh breath are important parts of a great smile. If you have not felt your teeth are as white and bright as you would like them to be, employing some dental hygiene basics will help you keep your teeth super clean and super healthy.
Thorough toothbrushing twice a day is the key to keeping teeth clean and healthy. After eating, it takes only about 20 minutes for a sticky film of bacteria called plaque to form on your teeth. When plaque is allowed to remain on your teeth, it can cause tooth decay, gum disease and dingy-looking teeth. If you are going for super clean teeth, you may want to brush after every meal and at bedtime for maximum results.
It's not enough to brush frequently. You have to make sure you are using a good toothbrush and proper brushing technique. Your brush should be soft with round-ended bristles. Replace it every 3 to 4 months. Older brushes can harbor germs, and frayed bristles do not clean as well. When brushing, place the bristles of your brush along your gum line at a 45 degree angle. Use a gentle back and forth and rolling motion, and make sure you have cleaned every tooth as well as your tongue. Have your dentist or hygienist check your brushing technique and make suggestions for improvement.
While flossing is an essential part of home care, it is often skipped by many people. It’s a hard habit to get into and, depending on your dexterity and the size of your hands, it can be awkward. The American Dental Association recommends flossing once a day to remove the food and plaque between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. To ensure that you have really clean teeth and fresh breath, ask your dentist or hygienist to review proper flossing technique with you. She may also have suggestions for other types of cleaning aids, such as water jets, cone brushes or soft wooden sticks that may work well for cleaning between your teeth.
Avoid Certain Foods and Tobacco
Tea, coffee, berries, red wine and some other deeply colored foods can stain your teeth, especially in areas where you missed brushing or flossing off the plaque. The cleaner you keep your teeth, the less staining you will have from these foods. Brush right after eating or drinking any types of foods that tend to stain. Smoking or chewing tobacco can leave unsightly tar stains on your teeth. If you smoke, make sure your teeth are clean before lighting up so the tar cannot adhere to any plaque left on your teeth. Once the tar gets on your teeth, you will not be able to brush it off.
Get Professional Dental Cleanings
In addition to a stringent home-care routine, if you want to have the cleanest teeth in town, see your dentist or dental hygienist at least twice a year for a professional cleaning. When plaque has been left on your teeth for any length of time, it starts to harden and form tartar. You cannot remove tartar with your toothbrush. A dental cleaning involves removing tartar and soft plaque above and below your gum line and then polishing your teeth to smooth and shine them. You really can’t get any cleaner than this.
- American Dental Association: Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
- American Dental Hygienists Association: Proper Brushing
- American Dental Hygienists Association: Proper Flossing
- Medline Plus: Dental Care -- Adult
- FamilyDoctor.org: Mouth and Teeth -- How to Keep Them Healthy
- American Dental Association: Floss and Other Interdental Cleaners
- American Dental Hygienists Association: Interdental Cleansing
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