Personal Care and Hygiene - Teeth

Taking good care of one's teeth is one of the smartest investments a person can make in their health, helping to ensure that the teeth will remain strong, healthy, and white for a lifetime. While many advances have been made in dentistry and in replacing teeth, nothing can ever take the place of natural teeth. They are stronger than any artificial teeth a dental professional can make. This is why it is important to care for them properly.

Dental problems can be prevented by regularly using a toothbrush and dental floss, the tools for good teeth.


There are many important reasons to brush the teeth every day. Brushing removes the plaque (a sticky film of bacteria that grows around the teeth) that causes tooth decay, or cavities. Brushing also helps keep gums healthy and breath fresh.

To make the most of brushing, a person should choose a soft-bristled toothbrush with a shape that suits one's mouth and allows one to reach all of the teeth easily. Use a toothpaste with fluoride (a chemical compound that is added to toothpaste and drinking water to help prevent tooth decay), hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums, and brush back and forth in short movements. Make certain to brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces (or flat surfaces) of the teeth. Brushing the tongue will help remove bacteria that can cause bad breath.


Flossing between teeth is a very important habit to acquire. Ideally, flossing should be done every time the teeth are brushed. Using dental floss removes plaque that is caught between the teeth. This will help prevent both cavities and gum disease.

When flossing, use a generous length of floss (about 18 inches or so). Wrap one end of the floss securely around one of the middle fingers. Hook the other end around the same finger on the opposite hand. Holding the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers, pull the floss gently between each tooth. Softly rub the floss against the side of each tooth.

Some people have difficulty handling floss, but there are many types of interdental cleaners that accomplish the same thing as floss. These include different kinds of picks and dental sticks that can be found in a pharmacy or drug store.


It may sound strange, but there is such a thing as brushing teeth too vigorously. Even though brushing is vital to maintaining healthy teeth, it can be harmful if you are brushing improperly. The enamel that protects the outside of your teeth is hard but it can get worn. When enamel is worn, teeth are more prone to decay. Using gentle, short strokes when brushing helps ensure that teeth don't get damaged.

Tooth Decay and Cavities

Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay, or cavities, and gum disease. When people eat, especially

When flossing, hold the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers and pull the floss gently between each tooth. (Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission.)
When flossing, hold the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers and pull the floss gently between each tooth. (Photograph by
Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications
. Reproduced by permission.)

foods containing starches and sugars, and they don't brush their teeth right away, the plaque bacteria in their mouths make acids. These acids then attack the enamel on the teeth. When this happens repeatedly, teeth will begin decaying. Cavities accompanied by painful toothaches can develop.

Gum Disease

Another problem that plaque causes is gum disease. Gum disease, which is also called periodontal disease, occurs when gums get infected. The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. Over time, the gums and the bone around the teeth can become weakened. This can cause teeth to fall out. When this happens, it means a condition known as periodontitis is present.

Unlike tooth decay, gum disease is not as obvious as tooth decay because it is painless. Some signs of gum disease include red, swollen, or sensitive gums, chronic bad breath, and gums that bleed while brushing the teeth. Even though gum disease usually affects adults, good oral hygiene as a young adult will help prevent this disease and protect the teeth.

Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, can be caused by gum disease, eating certain foods (such as garlic), or a medical disorder. Often, though, bad breath is the result of poor oral hygiene. When bacteria build up in the mouth, it can lead to a bad taste in one's mouth and a bad odor too. Regularly brushing the teeth as well as the tongue often helps eliminate bad breath.

How A Dentist Can Help

A visit to the dentist can remedy almost any dental ailments. In fact, visiting the dentist every six months can help prevent future dental ailments. Getting regular check-ups, including diagnostic X-rays, will help prevent the development of serious dental problems such as gum disease or abscesses (when pus from a tooth infection spreads to the gums). And getting teeth cleaned professionally at the dentist's office can help remove the build-up of plaque and tartar, both of which can cause cavities.

Just as brushing and flossing are important weapons in the fight against tooth decay, so is seeing a dentist on a regular basis.

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