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How Can I Prevent Gingivitis?

To keep your mouth healthy, the American Dental Association says you should:

1. Brush your teeth twice a day. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or sooner if the bristles become frayed. Old, worn out ones won't clean teeth as well.

2. Floss every day. Don’t wait until something gets stuck between your teeth. Daily flossing gets plaque out of places your toothbrush can't reach. Don’t like flossing? Try interdental cleaners, picks, or small brushes that fit in between teeth. Ask your dentist how to use them so you don't damage your gums.

3. Rinse your mouth out. Antibacterial mouthwash not only prevents gingivitis, it fights bad breath and plaque. Ask your dentist which mouthwash would work best for you.

4. Visit your dentist every 6 months. Once tartar forms on your teeth, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. Depending on your overall oral health and risk factors, you may need to see him more often.

5. Eat healthy foods. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars and starches from food, fueling them to release the acids that attack tooth enamel. Junk food and candy have a lot of extra sugar and starch. Avoid them to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

6. If you smoke, quit. Not only is smoking bad for your heart and lungs, it can also harm your teeth and gums. Smoking or using smokeless tobacco can make you more likely to get severe gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.

Brush, floss, rinse, and repeat. Gingivitis can come back any time. So build good oral care habits, and stick with them.