Preventive dental care is essential for good oral health. By going to the dentist regularly and practicing good oral hygiene habits at home, you can lower your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Here’s what you need to know about these simple steps for keeping your smile healthy for a lifetime.
How Often Should You Brush Your Teeth?
At a minimum, you should brush your teeth twice a day, morning and night. For patients with braces, it’s a good idea to brush after every meal if possible, as food often gets stuck under the wires and around the brackets, leaving teeth susceptible to decay. Even if you don’t have braces, there are times when you might want to brush your teeth more often than twice a day—if you drink coffee, tea, or red wine, for example, brushing after you drink can help prevent stains from forming on your teeth.
Now that we’ve addressed how often to brush your teeth, there’s another question that’s just as important: how long should you brush your teeth? For most patients, the answer is at least two minutes. If you have braces or dental restorations that require a little extra care when brushing, you may need to add another minute or two to each brushing session.
Two minutes may not seem like a long time, but it tends to be longer than most people think. If you’re not timing your brushing, it’s very likely that you’re brushing for far less than the recommended two minutes. Electric toothbrushes are fantastic because most of them have a built-in timer that lets you know when you’ve reached two minutes, but all you need is a timer on your phone to make sure you’re hitting the two minute mark.
How Often Should You Floss Your Teeth?
While brushing is recommended for two minutes twice a day, the American Dental Association suggests flossing once a day. The timing is up to you, but nighttime is ideal because you’re not rushing out the door for work or school so you have a bit more time to devote to oral hygiene. It’s also a good idea to remove any leftover food particles from the day before you go to sleep at night.
How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?
No matter your age, the recommendation is the same: you should go to the dentist for a dental exam and cleaning every six months. Patients with gum disease may need more frequent cleaning, but for everyone else, six months between visits is ideal.
Good home oral hygiene habits are important, but they’re not a substitute for professional teeth cleaning. Plaque that is missed by brushing hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by the specialized instruments used at the dentist’s office. When plaque and tartar are left on the surfaces of the teeth, they release acid that eats away at tooth enamel and harbor bacteria that causes decay, a one-two punch for oral health. When tartar begins to accumulate below the gumline, gum disease sets in.
Once plaque and tartar are removed, the dental hygienist polishes your teeth with a gritty toothpaste. This isn’t just for aesthetics—the polishing creates a smooth surface on your teeth that makes it harder for new deposits of plaque and tartar to form.