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    Teeth and Gum Care

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    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 or hygienist. 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.

    Tips for Rinsing Your Teeth & Gums

    The third part of your daily oral care routine should be mouthwash -- but not just any mouthwash.

    • Rinse daily with an antiseptic (also known as antibacterial) mouthwash to help kill bacteria that cause plaque, early gum disease, and bad breath.
    • Fluoride-containing mouthwash helps prevent tooth decay. Some mouthwashes have both antibacterial ingredients and fluoride.
    • Swish the rinse around in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds.
    • You can use a mouthwash before or after you brush and floss.

    Eating Right and Dental Health

    For good dental health, eat a variety of foods, avoiding those that contain sugars and starches. These foods produce the most acids in the mouth, and the longer they stay in the mouth, the more they can damage the teeth. Hard "sucking candies" are especially harmful because they stay in the mouth a long time.

    Snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay, because most people don't brush after snacks. Starchy snack foods, like potato chips, stick to the teeth. Avoid snacking on:

    • Candies, cookies, cakes, and pie
    • Sugary gum
    • Crackers, breadsticks, and chips
    • Dried fruits and raisins
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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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