Cleaning your teeth and gums (oral hygiene)

Your teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. After eating a meal or snack, the bacteria on your teeth begin to release acids that attack tooth enamel, eventually causing cavities. Plaque that is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning teeth with floss can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. The gum tissue may become swollen and bleed, indicating the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Oral bacteria have been associated in some clinical studies with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and the birth of pre-term, low weight babies.

It is easy to keep your teeth and gums in good health. Just follow these simple guidelines:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Ask your dentist about an electric toothbrush. We recommend the Sonicare toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss. It is important to floss because bacteria which can cause tooth decay remain between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing removes the plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line which cause decay.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
  • Consider dental sealants, especially for children. Dental sealants are a protective coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.

It is a good idea to replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles become frayed. A worn toothbrush will not do a good job of cleaning your teeth. Children’s toothbrushes often need to be replaced more frequently than adults because they can wear out sooner.