- Teeth and Gum Care Center
- Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth
- Teeth Whiteners That Work
- Dental (Oral) Health Quiz
- Find a local Doctor in your town
How Should I Care for My Teeth and Gums?
There are four basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:
- Eating right
- Visiting the dentist
Tips for Brushing
Brush at least twice a day. If you can, brush after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth. When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities. To brush:
- Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on the head of the toothbrush. (Use a soft toothbrush.)
- Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
- Move the brush across the teeth using a small circular motion. Continue with this motion cleaning one tooth at a time. Keep the tips of the bristles against the gum line. Avoid pressing so hard that the bristles lie flat against the teeth. (Only the tips of the toothbrush clean the teeth.) Let the bristles reach into spaces between teeth.
- Brush across the top of the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Make sure the bristles get into the groves and crevices.
- Use the same small circular motion to clean the backside of the upper and
teeth -- theside that faces the tongue.
- To clean the inside of the bottom front teeth, angle the head in an up-and-down position toward the bottom inside of the mouth and move the toothbrush in a small circle.
- For the inside of the top front teeth, angle the brush in an up-and-down position with the tip of the head pointing towards the roof of the mouth. Move the toothbrush in a small circle.
- Give your tongue a few gentle brush strokes, brushing from the back of your tongue forward. Do not scrub. This helps remove bacteria and freshens your breath.
- After brushing your teeth for two to three minutes, rinse your mouth with water.
- Replace your toothbrush with a new one every 3 to 4 months.
Tips for Flossing
Floss once a day. Flossing gets rid of food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. If plaque stays between teeth, it can harden into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist. To floss:
- Remove about an 18-inch strip of floss from the dispenser.
- Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving a 1-inch section open for flossing. Floss the top teeth first, then the bottom.
- Place the floss in your mouth and use your index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Be careful not to push too hard and injure the gums.
- Move the floss up and down against the tooth and up and around the gum line. The floss should form a C-shape around the tooth as you floss.
- Floss between each tooth as well as behind the back teeth.
- Use a clean section of floss as needed and take up used floss by winding it around the fingers.
Tips for Eating Right
Eat a variety of foods but eat fewer foods that contain sugars and starches. These foods produce the most acids in the mouth and the longer they stay in the mouth, the more they can damage the teeth. Hard "sucking candies" are especially harmful because they stay in the mouth a long time.
Snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay because most people don't brush after snacks. Starchy snack foods, like potato chips, stick to the teeth. Avoid snacking on:
- Candies, cookies, cakes and pie
- Sugary gum
- Crackers, breadsticks and chips
- Dried fruits and raisins
Visit your dentist at least once every six months. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, it's important to have regular check-ups and professional cleanings. You should also see your dentist if you have pain in your teeth or mouth or bleeding, swollen gums.
You can also ask your dentist about dental sealants. Sealant is a material used to coat the top, chewing surfaces of the teeth. This coating protects the tooth from decay and usually lasts a long time.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD, on October 22, 2007
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Teeth and Gum Care Related Articles
CavitiesLearn more about cavities including symptoms, treatment, and prevention. See how tooth decay, plaque, and bacteria contribute to the creation of cavities and how regular brushing and flossing can help prevent dental caries.
Choosing a ToothpasteToothpaste, or dentifrice, is a paste, gel, or powder that helps maintain dental health. Toothpastes may contain different compounds to minimize the risk of cavities, tartar, teeth sensitivity, and stains and yellowing.
Common Dental ProblemsLearn about dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and oral cancer. Explore procedures such as root canals, crowns, and dental implants that help improve dental hygiene.
What Are Common Causes of Dental Injuries?Dental injuries range from a chipped or fractured tooth to a knocked-out tooth. Treatment depends upon the severity of the dental injury. Dental injuries may be prevented by aligning protruding front teeth with braces and using face masks and mouthguards while playing sports.
Dental SealantsDental sealants protect teeth from tooth decay by coating the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Sealants are thin coats of plastic that are typically applied to the back teeth. Sealants may last for up to 10 years.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)Gum disease is caused by plaque and may result in tooth loss without proper treatment. Symptoms and signs of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontal disease) include receding gums, bad breath and pocket formation between the teeth and gums. Treatment depends upon the stage of the gum disease, how you responded to earlier treatments, and your overall health.
Gum ProblemsGum problems may be caused by improper brushing and flossing, gum disease, canker sores, treatments and hormonal changes. Symptoms of gum problems include red, swollen, sore and bleeding gums. These symptoms can be prevented by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating a well-balanced diet, drinking enough water, not smoking, and relaxing.
What Is Hyperdontia?Hyperdontia is a condition in which a person has an excessive amount of teeth (more than 20 primary teeth or 32 permanent teeth), which can also be referred to as supernumerary teeth or extra teeth. The cause of hyperdontia is unknown. Treatment can involve tooth removal.
Oral Health and Bone DiseaseOsteoporosis may be linked to bone loss in the jaw, which in turn, leads to tooth loss. Low bone density may result in ill-fitting dentures, tooth loss, and gum disease. Dental X-rays may be able to distinguish people with osteoporosis from those with normal bone density.
Protect Your Teeth: 19 Bad Dental Habits to AvoidBad dental habits can wreck your teeth. Teeth grinding, chewing on ice, playing sports without a mouth guard, and eating and drinking sugary foods and drinks are just a few bad habits that are bad for teeth. Giving nighttime baby bottles, opening things with your teeth, and chewing on pencils can also damage teeth and tissues in the mouth. Drinking red wine and white wine can erode enamel and stain teeth. Smoking, tobacco use, drinking coffee can all lead to tooth stains. Binge eating disorder leads to the consumption of large amounts of sugary food, which can lead to tooth decay. Purging exposes teeth to acids that can wear down enamel.
Beautiful Teeth and GumsExplore tips for beautiful teeth and gums. Brighten your smile and keep healthy gums with these easy and simple tools.
Teeth PictureThe teeth are the hardest substances in the human body. See a picture of the Teeth and learn more about the health topic.
ToothacheA toothache is pain on or around a tooth. It may have a variety of causes, including a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis. Toothache symptoms include pain, headache, earache, bad taste in the mouth, and gum swelling. Dental X-rays and other tests performed by a dentist are used to diagnose the cause of a toothache. Toothache treatment depends on the underlying cause. Taking proper care of the teeth and gums can help prevent toothache.
Mouth Problems: TMJ, Canker Sores, Painful Gums and MoreSores, painful gums, bad breath -- what's going on in your mouth? Find out with our slideshow of the most common mouth problems. Learn about canker sores, cold sores, oral thrush, TMJ, and oral cancer. See what treatments for bad breath and other dental problems are available from your dentist.