- The best way to remove decay-causing plaque? Brush and clean between your teeth every day. Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily.
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps protect your teeth from decay.
- Once a day use floss or interdental cleaners to clean those areas where a toothbrush can’t reach. This helps remove food particles and that sticky film called plaque from between the teeth and under the gum line. It’s an essential step toward preventing periodontal (gum) disease.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
- By taking care of your teeth, eating a balanced diet, and visiting your dentist regularly, you can have healthy teeth and an attractive smile your entire life.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months — sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush will do a poor job of cleaning your teeth.
- When choosing any dental product, look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance — an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
- One way to prevent tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease is by eating a balanced diet and limiting the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, or a piece of fruit.
- Clinical studies show that using a fluoride mouth rinse and fluoride toothpaste can provide extra protection against tooth decay over that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone. Fluoride mouth rinse is not recommended for children age six or younger.
- When flossing, don’t forget the back side of your last tooth.
Your body is like a complex machine. The foods you choose as fuel and how often you “fill up” affect your general health and that of your teeth and gums. Many dentists are concerned that their patients are consuming record numbers of sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks that affect their teeth. These items generally have little if any nutritional value and over time they can take a toll on teeth.
Eating patterns and food choices among children and teens are important factors that affect how quickly youngsters may develop tooth decay. When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.
Not sure you’re getting the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by your body (and your teeth and gums)? Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site. The USDA oversees the nutritional health of the nation. The agency’s dietary recommendations are designed to promote optimal health and to prevent obesity-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancers.
The government’s recommendations recognize that people have different dietary needs at various stages of life. They offer guidance for children and adults based on their levels of physical activity. Your physician or a registered dietician can also provide suggestions for your daily food intake.
Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. Almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. However, they shouldn’t be removed from our diets because many of them contain important nutrients. And they add pleasure to eating. To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Added sugars often are present in soft drinks, candy, cookies and pastries.
If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to periodontal (gum) disease, a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Although poor nutrition does not cause periodontal disease directly, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and could be more severe in people with nutrient-poor diets.
What can you do?