Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Oral Care

Select An Article
Font Size

Teeth and Gum Care

With proper care, your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life. The healthier your teeth and gums are, the less risk you have for tooth decay and gum disease.

How Should I Care for My Teeth and Gums?

There are four basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:

  1. Brushing
  2. Flossing
  3. Eating right
  4. Visiting the dentist

Tips for Brushing Your Teeth and Gums

Brush teeth and gums at least twice a day. If you can, brush after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth. When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities. To brush:

  • Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on the head of the toothbrush. (Use a soft toothbrush.)
  • Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
  • Move the brush across the teeth using a small circular motion. Continue with this motion cleaning one tooth at a time. Keep the tips of the bristles against the gum line. Avoid pressing so hard that the bristles lie flat against the teeth. (Only the tips of the toothbrush clean the teeth.) Let the bristles reach into spaces between teeth.
  • Brush across the top of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Make sure the bristles get into the groves and crevices.
  • Use the same small circular motion to clean the backside of the upper and lower teeth -- the side that faces the tongue.
  • To clean the inside of the bottom front teeth, angle the head in an up-and-down position toward the bottom inside of the mouth and move the toothbrush in a small circle.
  • For the inside of the top front teeth, angle the brush in an up-and-down position with the tip of the head pointing towards the roof of the mouth. Move the toothbrush in a small circle.
  • Give your tongue a few gentle brush strokes, brushing from the back of your tongue forward. Do not scrub. This helps remove bacteria and freshens your breath.
  • After brushing your teeth for two to three minutes, rinse your mouth with water.
  • Replace your toothbrush with a new one every three to four months.

Tips for Flossing Your Teeth

Floss your teeth once a day. Flossing gets rid of food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. If plaque stays between teeth, it can harden into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist. To floss:

  • Remove about an 18-inch strip of floss from the dispenser.
  • Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving a 1-inch section open for flossing. Floss the top teeth first, then the bottom.
  • Place the floss in your mouth and use your index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Be careful not to push too hard and injure the gums.
  • Move the floss up and down against the tooth and up and around the gum line. The floss should form a C-shape around the tooth as you floss.
  • Floss between each tooth as well as behind the back teeth.
  • Use a clean section of floss as needed and take up used floss by winding it around the fingers.

Also, antibacterial mouth rinses (there are fluoride mouth rinses as well) can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

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.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

big smile
Article
Man grinding teeth
Article
 
Close-up of toothbrush
Health Check
how your mouth impacts your health
Slideshow
 

are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
bpa dental sealants
Video
 
Healthy Mouth Slideshow
Video
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 

15 myths and facts about cavities
Video
how healthy is your mouth
Video
 
elmo brushing teeth
fitVideo
5 ways to prevent diabetes dental problems
Video