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    The 5-Step Tooth-Plaque Prevention Plan

    By Rachel Reiff Ellis
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS

    Have you ever run your tongue along the front of your teeth and felt a slimy coating? That “fuzzy-toothed” feeling is the buildup of bacteria.

    It’s called plaque, and if you let it stick around for too long, it can damage your teeth and gums.

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    What can you do to stop plaque in its tracks?

    Step 1: Brush Every Day

    Once a day is good, but twice is better. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.

    “Brushing twice daily prevents plaque from forming in the first place and disrupts any plaque that has already started to form and mature,” says JoAnn R. Gurenlian, PhD, a professor in the department of dental hygiene at Idaho State University.

    Make sure you get all the areas of your mouth, including teeth, gums, tongue, and the insides of your cheeks. The process should take about 2 minutes.

    Step 2: Clean Between Your Teeth

    Flossing may not be much fun, but cleaning between your teeth every day can have a big impact on your oral health.

    If you have a tough time with floss, ask your dentist about interdental brushes, floss aides, water, or air-flossing devices.

    Step 3: Use a Mouth Rinse

    Know your terms: Mouth rinse and mouthwash are two different things.

    “Mouthwash is used to freshen breath,” Gurenlian says. “An antiseptic mouth rinse, however, actually helps reduce the bacterial load found in plaque.”

    Using mouth rinse prevents plaque buildup more than just brushing and flossing. Gurenlian suggests a 30-second swish twice a day.

    Step 4: Avoid Sticky, Sugary Food

    The hardest foods to get off your teeth are ones that cling when you chew. Think raisins, granola bars, or sticky candy. Sugary and starchy foods are some of the most harmful to teeth.

    “If sugar is not removed from your teeth shortly after you eat it, plaque uses it to help create tooth decay,” Gurenlian says. The faster you can get food off your teeth, the less likely you are to get cavities.

    Step 5: Go to the Dentist

    Have someone who knows teeth keep tabs on yours. See your dentist regularly, so they can look for signs of disease. Most people have to visit only twice a year.

    Reviewed on November 09, 2015

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    You are currently

    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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