Skip to content

Oral Care

Font Size

Topic 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.
      1|2

      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

      close up of woman sticking out tongue
      Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
      toothbrushes
      10 secrets to a brighter smile.
       
      Veneer smile
      Before and after.
      Woman checking her bite in mirror
      Why dental care is important.
       

      Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
      Slideshow
      woman with jaw pain
      Quiz
       
      eroded front teeth
      Slideshow
      brushing teeth
      Video
       

      Variety shades of tea
      Slideshow
      mouth and dental instruments
      Article
       
      Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
      Tool
      womans smile
      Video