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Are You at Risk for Tooth Loss?

How to keep your teeth for a lifetime.

Brush and Floss

First, wash your hands. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss once a day.

"You wouldn't have to floss if you could reach all the parts of your mouth with a toothbrush, but you can't -- no more than you can vacuum a whole house without certain attachments for getting into corners," Price says. If you don't know how, ask your hygienist or dentist.

Other tips to prevent bacterial growth:

  • Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Wash your toothbrush once in a while in the dishwasher or place it in a cup of mouthwash.
  • Let your toothbrush dry completely after each brushing.
  • Don't share your toothbrush with anyone.

Control Clenching and Grinding

Clenching and grinding can wear down your teeth. Stress control and relaxation techniques can greatly help. Also, if you clench and grind at night, your dentist can make a bite guard to even out the stresses on your teeth.

Whether it's stress management, a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, or nutritious food, many healthy lifestyle habits can cut your odds of periodontal disease or slow its progression.

"The better you take care of your body, the broader the health benefits," Clem says.

Feed Your Teeth the Right Stuff

You don't need a special diet. Sound nutritional habits will do the trick. However, meeting your daily requirements for calcium and vitamin C, plus plenty of water, may be especially helpful for your teeth and gums.

"We know that sugar is a super fuel for bacteria that produces acids and enzymes," Price says. "So either cut down on the sugar or get it out of your mouth before it produces harm."

If you do lose your teeth, it may limit your diet.

"People who don't have their teeth tend to eat soft, high-carbohydrate diets," Clem says. "They are not able to eat high-protein, high-fiber foods, which are even more important as they age." And that could contribute to a whole host of other problems, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Quit Smoking

Smoking affects the blood supply that feeds your gums, increasing the incidence and severity of periodontal disease.

"Smokeless tobacco has an even more deleterious [harmful] effect on gums," Price says.

Smokers are harder to treat, says Clem, and their response to treatment is less predictable. But if you quit smoking, you'll cut your odds of heart disease, as well as periodontal disease.

Manage Chronic Diseases

If you have a chronic disease, you may need to take extra care of your teeth.

People with poorly managed diabetes, for instance, may have difficulty with fighting infection and wound healing.

If you have diabetes, you need to pay special attention to blood glucose control, as well as dental care and regular checkups.

Contact your dentist if you see signs of periodontal disease: red, sore, or bleeding gums.

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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