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Basic Dental Care - Overview

What is basic dental care?

Basic dental care involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, seeing your dentist and/or dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings, and eating a mouth-healthy diet, which means foods high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products.

Why is basic dental care important?

Practicing basic dental care:

  • Prevents tooth decay.
  • Prevents gum (periodontal) disease camera.gif, which can damage gum tissue and the bones camera.gif that support teeth camera.gif, and in the long term can lead to the loss of teeth.
  • Shortens time with the dentist and dental hygienist, and makes the trip more pleasant.
  • Saves money. By preventing tooth decay and gum disease, you can reduce the need for fillings and other costly procedures.
  • Helps prevent bad breath. Brushing and flossing rid your mouth of the bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Helps keep teeth white by preventing staining from food, drinks, and tobacco.
  • Improves overall health.
  • Makes it possible for your teeth to last a lifetime.

Are there ways to avoid dental problems?

Keeping your teeth and gums healthy requires good nutrition and regular brushing and flossing.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day—in the morning and before bed—and floss once a day. This removes plaque, which can lead to damaged teeth, gums, and surrounding bone.
  • Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities. Ask your dentist if you need a mouthwash that contains fluoride or one with ingredients that fight plaque. Look for toothpastes that have been approved by the American Dental Association.
  • Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar. Sugar helps plaque grow.
  • Avoid using tobacco products, which can cause gum disease and oral cancer. Exposure to tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke) also may cause gum disease as well as other health problems.1
  • Practice tongue cleaning. You can use a tongue cleaner or a soft-bristle toothbrush, stroking in a back-to-front direction. Tongue cleaning is particularly important for people who smoke or whose tongues are coated or deeply grooved.
  • Schedule regular trips to the dentist based on how often you need exams and cleaning.

When should your child start seeing a dentist?

By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems. If he or she thinks your child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months after the first primary teeth appear camera.gif, whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.

Experts recommend that your child's dental care start at 12 months of age. If your baby has dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem, see your pediatric dentist right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about basic dental care:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 07, 2013
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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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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