Introduction

Your teeth can last a lifetime if you
practice basic dental care, which involves brushing and flossing regularly,
eating a mouth-healthy diet, and visiting your dentist and/or
dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings.
Developing good dental health habits is the best way to prevent
tooth decay and
gum disease.

How to brush and floss your teeth

When you brush
your teeth:

  • Brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning
    and at night.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and
    a head that is small enough to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth. Replace
    your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
  • You may also use an electric toothbrush that has the American
    Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. Studies show that powered
    toothbrushes with a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action are more
    effective than other toothbrushes, including other powered
    toothbrushes.footnote 1
  • Place the brush at a
    45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Press firmly, and gently rock the
    brush back and forth using small circular movements. Do not scrub. Vigorous
    brushing can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth
    enamel.
  • Brush all surfaces of the teeth, tongue-side and
    cheek-side. Pay special attention to the front teeth and all surfaces of the
    back teeth.
  • Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short
    back-and-forth strokes.
  • Brush your tongue from back to front.
    Some people put some toothpaste or mouthwash on their toothbrush when they do
    this. Brushing your tongue helps remove plaque, which can cause bad breath and
    help bacteria grow. Some toothbrushes now have a specific brush to use for your
    tongue.

Floss at least once a day. The type of floss you use is not
important. Choose the type and flavor you like best. When you floss your teeth,
use any of the following methods:

  • The
    finger-wrap method: Cut off a piece of floss
    18 in. (45 cm) to
    20 in. (50 cm) long. Wrap one
    end around your left middle finger and the other end around your right middle
    finger, until your hands are about
    2 in. (5 cm) to
    3 in. (8 cm)
    apart.
  • The
    circle method: Use a piece of floss about
    12 in. (30 cm) long. Tie the
    ends together, forming a loop. If the loop is too large, wrap the floss around
    your fingers to make it smaller.

Gently work the floss between the teeth toward the gums.
Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape and gently slide it under the gum
line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the
plaque. Popping the floss in and out between the teeth
without scraping will not remove much plaque and can hurt your gums.

A plastic flossing tool makes flossing easier. Child-size
flossing tools are available for parents to use to floss their children’s teeth.
They are available at most drugstores.

If your gums bleed when you
floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter next
to your teeth.

References

Citations

  1. Robinson PG, et al. (2005). Manual versus powered toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update Software.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD – Dentistry
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMay 7, 2017