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    Helpful Hints for Healthy Teeth

    Don't believe everything you hear about what is good or bad for your pearly whites.

    Don't Overbrush Your Teeth continued...

    "Don't use a brush more than three months," Price adds. "That is the limit."

    If you use an electric brush, Paskerian recommends a rotary head type that you take from tooth to tooth rather than cruising across the teeth with it.

    Water picks, both dentists say, can drive bacteria back up into the gums, which can lead to it lodging in other parts of the body, such as the heart. "The picks do not remove plaque," Paskerian says.

    Price recommends them only for a gentle lavage before or after brushing. "Do not turn it on like a fire hose," he instructs.

    Similarly, prebrush rinses, Price says, are no substitute for brushing. These methods should be used together.

    Toothpaste is an abrasive, with some therapeutic additions, namely fluoride, which strengthens enamel and can shore up little breaches in it before cavities develop.

    Brushing itself should be gentle, with the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the teeth, Paskerian says. Swish gently with an oval motion rather than raking the brush side to side across the teeth.

    What about the ever-popular floss? Paskerian recommends the easy-glide type -- daily, of course. Since the dentin between teeth is not fully mineralized with hard enamel, don't saw away like mad. Paskerian is also skeptical of the new "paste" floss -- that means an abrasive is being pulled over the dentin, he says.

    Dental Destroyers

    Homemade drugs full of industrial chemicals, such as methamphetamine (meth), can ruin teeth in short order. There is even a term for the rottenness and missing teeth -- meth mouth. Muriatic acid, used to strip cement floors, is one ingredient. "These drugs also cause dry mouth, leaving the teeth open to plaque, Price says. "And the users tend to be tense and grind their teeth." (Not to mention not being too picky about brushing, flossing, and taking care of their teeth.)

    But even some more respectable drugs, such as tetracycline and other full-spectrum antibotics, can cause discoloration in permanent teeth if kids take them before age 10 -- and now they are finding that adults can get color changes from some adult acne antibiotics, too, Price says.

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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