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Good Oral Health Practices

You know the drill--it's what you hope to avoid with regular brushing and flossing. Brushing twice a day will help get rid of plaque, the main cause of tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque is a sticky film that is deposited on your teeth. It is made up of bacteria, mucus, and minerals in the saliva. Bacteria in the plaque break down the sugars and starches from foods into acids, which attack the enamel on your teeth, causing tooth decay and other problems.

Clean white teeth, healthy gums, and fresh breath are usually an indication of overall good oral health. If your dental health is poor, it can affect your overall health and nutrition. Proper dental care is important for adults and children.

Mouth maintenance

Keep the gleam in your grin with the following dental health basics:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid foods high in sugar or starch--they tend to stick to your teeth. Drink plenty of water every day.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Many people feel brushing the tongue daily leaves the mouth more refreshed.

  • Floss at least once a day. Or, you can use an interdental cleaner, a special pick or brush you use between your teeth. Be gentle with your gums--don't force the floss or cleaner between your teeth.

  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or earlier if it's worn out. When you buy a new toothbrush (or any other dental product), look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance on the label.

  • Visit your dentist or dental hygienist at least once a year, but preferably every six months. Don't ignore small cavities or other mouth problems. They can become serious if left untreated.

Bad breath

Simple, chronic halitosis, also called bad breath, is a problem for many people. Despite what the commercials say, mouthwash doesn't really get rid of bad breath. A common cause of bad breath is strong-smelling food, such as onions or garlic. As long as the offending food remains in your system, your breath will tell the tale. Other causes of bad breath include smoking, tooth decay, plaque, food trapped between teeth, a coated tongue (loaded with bacteria, mucus and decaying food), sinus infection or obstructive nasal conditions, pharyngitis, some stomach problems, and diabetes. Bad breath that is not remedied by good flossing, brushing and routine professional cleaning should be evaluated by a physician.

Care for your gums

A more serious cause of bad breath is gum disease. If you don't brush and floss every day, plaque can build up below the gum line and cause your gums to become infected and sore. Severe gum disease, called periodontitis, can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or need to be removed. You can have gum disease and not know it. If you have chronic bad breath, red and swollen gums, bleeding gums, gums that have pulled away from your teeth, loose teeth, or other changes in your mouth, see your dentist right away.

Healthy teeth for a lifetime

The advice you got when you were young remains just as important today. Practice good oral health, and your teeth can last a lifetime.