Although most people think they know the reasons for proper, daily toothbrushing, few people realize that clean teeth and healthy gums can protect against a variety of general, even life-threatening, health problems. When you don’t brush regularly, harmful bacteria multiply and plaque forms. Combined with sugar, saliva, mucus, and food debris, plaque creates a strong acid substance that eats away protective tooth enamel to cause tooth decay. A downhill slide can result.

Over time, the decay works its way through the enamel to infect tooth dentin. This can cause pain and destroy essential tooth structure. Meanwhile, plaque bacteria build up on tooth surfaces, irritating gums, causing them to pull away from the teeth and expose the sensitive root surface. Unhealthy gums develop pockets where bacteria gathers, causing an infection. This can destroy the bone that holds teeth secure, resulting in tooth mobility or loss. Finally, chronic gum disease can be associated with a host of health problems like heart disease, stroke, respiratory illness, diabetes complications, and pregnancy complications.

Maintain good oral health by establishing a solid habit of brushing twice daily with a soft manual toothbrush or a Sonicare power brush, using the proper technique and quality fluoride toothpaste, and flossing carefully once a day. What’s the best brushing technique? That depends on your personal dentition, but general guidelines apply to all patients.

First, choose toothpaste with the ADA seal of approval. You should spend at least three to four minutes brushing with a small, soft, angled brush in little, circular motions across all tooth surfaces and the gum line. Cover two to three teeth at a time, applying gentle pressure. Harsh brushing can damage gums and cause painful sensitivity. After brushing your teeth, remember to brush or scrape your tongue to remove germs and bacteria that harm teeth and cause bad breath. Finally, rinse your entire mouth with water and spit out the debris. Brush twice daily or after meals, and floss between teeth once a day.

Replace your toothbrush every three to four months so that the bristles remain effectively positioned and clean.