Self-help: Caring for your Teeth and Gums

Daily care of your teeth is as important as having regular dental checkups. If you adopt a simple routine of regular brushing and flossing, you can prevent food particles and bacteria from building up on the surface of your teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. If you cannot clean your teeth between meals, chewing sugar-free gum may help. You should avoid sugary foods and drinks, which contribute to tooth decay. If your water does not contain fluoride, which helps to strengthen teeth, consult your dentist about whether to use fluoride tablets or drops.

Brushing your teeth

Your teeth need brushing at least twice a day for 5 minutes and, if possible, after every meal. Use a small-headed, soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Make sure that you clean all the surfaces of all your teeth, especially where they meet the gum. You should replace your toothbrush every 2–3 months.

Brushing the teeth

Brush your teeth in small circular motions using a small-headed toothbrush held at an angle to the teeth.

Cleaning between teeth

Dental floss or dental tape is used to clean between the teeth and remove food particles and bacteria from areas between the teeth that cannot be reached easily with a toothbrush. Toothpicks and small interdental brushes may also be used. You should clean between each tooth in turn in a regular pattern so that no teeth are missed.

Flossing the teeth

Keeping the floss taut, guide it between the teeth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth away from the gum.

Food and drink

You should avoid consuming foods and drinks that have a high sugar content, such as desserts and colas, particularly if you cannot clean your teeth immediately. If you cannot brush soon after eating sugary foods, chew sugar-free gum.

Sugarless snacks

Snacking on foods such as nuts, celery, carrots, and cheese is better for your teeth than eating sugary foods.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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