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Prevention

You usually can prevent gum disease by brushing and flossing regularly, having regular dental visits for exams and cleaning, and eating a balanced diet.

Practice good dental habits:

  • Brush your teeth two times a day, in the morning and before bedtime, using fluoridetoothpaste. Clean all sides of your teeth, and also brush your tongue. Plaque on the tongue can cause bad breath and is an ideal environment for bacteria. If you can't brush, chew sugar-free gum, especially one with xylitol.
  • Try an electric toothbrush that has a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action. This type of toothbrush is better at removing plaque than a regular toothbrush.4 Look for one that has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash, such as Listerine, or a fluoride or antiplaque mouthwash.
  • Floss once a day. Any type of floss works, so choose a type you like. Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape, and gently slide it under the gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the plaque.
  • Use disclosing tablets now and then so you can see if you are brushing effectively. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after brushing. You can get them at most drugstores.
  • See your dentist regularly as recommended to have your teeth cleaned and checked.

If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier and tighter to your teeth. But bleeding gums may be a symptom of gum disease and should be brought to the attention of your dentist.

For more information on how to take care of your teeth, see:

Dental Care: Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth.

Making wise food choices can help you prevent gum disease:

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, vegetables, and fruits; is low in fat and saturated fat; and is low in sodium. Good nutrition is vital for children, whose teeth are still developing. It is also critical for adults in order to have healthy gums and avoid tooth decay. For more information on making good food choices, see the topic Healthy Eating.
  • Mozzarella and other cheeses, peanuts, yogurt, and milk are good for your teeth. They help clear the mouth of harmful sugars and protect against plaque.
  • Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar, especially sticky, sweet foods like taffy and raisins. The longer sugar stays in contact with the teeth, the more damage it will do.
  • Avoid bedtime snacks.

If you smoke or use spit tobacco, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to quit. Tobacco reduces your ability to fight infection and delays healing. Tobacco users are much more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers-up to six times more likely. They also have more serious gum disease that leads to tooth loss and that doesn't respond as well to treatment.5 Quitting is difficult. But many people find success through a combination of medicine, a stop-smoking program, and counseling. For more information on how to quit, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 05, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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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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