Policy & Issues

For that winning smile

Oral health begins with clean teeth.  

Too tired to brush your teeth? Too busy to floss? If you're tempted to skip these daily chores, remember that your smile depends on these simple dental-care habits.

Know how to promote oral health and when to report oral health problems to your dentist. Oral health begins with clean teeth. Consider these brushing basics and flossing tips from the American Dental Association:

l Brush your teeth at least twice a day: When you brush, don't rush. Take enough time to do a thorough job.

l Use the proper equipment: Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, especially if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush effectively.

l Practice good technique: Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle against your teeth and brush with short back-and-forth motions. Remember to brush the inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue. Avoid vigorous or harsh scrubbing, which can irritate your gums.

l Know when to replace your toothbrush: Invest in a new toothbrush or a replacement head for your electric toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles become frayed.

Flossing tips

l Don't skimp: Break off about 18 inches of dental floss. Wind most of the floss around the middle finger on one hand, and the rest around the middle finger on the other hand - leaving about one inch to floss your first tooth.

l Take it one tooth at a time: Use your thumbs and forefingers to gently pull the floss from the gumline to the top of the tooth to scrape off plaque. Rub the floss against all sides of the tooth. Unwind to fresh floss as you progress to the next tooth.

l Keep it up: If you have trouble getting floss through your teeth, try the waxed variety. If it's hard to manipulate the floss, use a floss holder or an inter-dental cleaner such as a dental pick or stick designed to clean between the teeth.

©New York Times News Service 2010

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