Maintaining Good Dental Care Habits
Your dentist is only a partner in your dental health. You need to do your part at home to keep periodontal disease at bay.
By Clare Kittredge
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Taking care of your teeth at home can help you maintain your dental health and prevent periodontal, or gum, disease from developing.
Richard H. Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association and a former clinical instructor at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, says regular home care should include daily brushing and flossing. “My advice is to brush thoroughly, at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening before going to bed,” says Dr. Price. “Be sure to floss at least once a day. I do it after every meal when I can.” Proper dental care at home, combined with seeing your dentist regularly, is your ticket to good dental health, says Price, who is retired from a 35-year private group dental practice in Newton, Mass.
Dental Health at Home
“Use products that have the ADA (American Dental Association) seal," says Price. "This means that the products — toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, etc. — are safe to use as directed and will keep your mouth healthy — no gum disease, no cavities."
Here are some basic principles to follow:
- Spend at least three minutes brushing your teeth two times a day. Use a timer if you have to to ensure that you're spending enough time on your oral care routine.
- Use floss at least once a day every day to clean between your teeth.
- Buy ADA-approved dental cleaning tools and toothpaste.
“Basically, brush and floss, and do it correctly,” says Price.
The goal of regular home care is to combat the buildup of plaque in and around your teeth and gums, and fight bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. Adults who neglect their teeth and who let plaque build up often develop infections in the delicate tissue around their teeth, Price explains.
A whole arsenal of dental health tools is available in drugstores to help you clean your teeth at home. These range from regular toothbrushes to power toothbrushes, inter-dental cleaners (picks, etc.), waxed and unwaxed floss, oral irrigators, and mouth rinses. You should ask your dentist which of these tools you might want to include in your daily cleaning routine.
Consequences of Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene invites plaque to accumulate around the base of your teeth and gum line, causing your gums to become red and inflamed.
"Plaque is the bacteria-laden film that, if allowed to accumulate on teeth and gums, will cause tooth decay and gum disease," Price explains.
If you neglect the care of your teeth at home and fail to go to the dentist regularly, accumulated plaque could potentially lead to the development of empty spaces around your teeth. These spaces could eventually lead to the destruction of bone and other fragile tissues supporting your teeth, and you could lose your teeth.
The good news is that being diligent about your dental health care and getting regular dental checkups can prevent plaque from forming and even reverse early gum disease. "A plaque-free mouth is a healthy mouth,” says Price.
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