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Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums

    man brushing teeth

    Content last updated on:
    November 30, 2012

    The Basics

    You can keep your teeth and gums healthy. Most problems with teeth and gums can be prevented by taking these steps:

    • Brush your teeth 2 times a day with fluoride (“FLOOR-ide”) toothpaste.
    • Floss between your teeth every day.
    • Visit a dentist regularly for checkups and cleaning.
    • Cut down on sugary foods and drinks.
    • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
    • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.

    The Basics

    Watch out for plaque.
    Plaque (“plak”) is a sticky substance that forms on your teeth. When plaque stays on your teeth too long, it can lead to tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease. Tooth decay and gum disease are the main causes of tooth loss.

    Taking care of your teeth and gums is especially important if you:

    Take Action!

    Take Action!

    Follow these tips for a healthy, beautiful smile.

    Brush your teeth.
    Brush your teeth 2 times every day. Use fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush with soft bristles. Fluoride is a mineral that helps protect teeth from decay.

    • Brush in circles and use short back-and-forth strokes.
    • Take time to brush gently along the gum line.
    • Don’t forget to brush your tongue.
    • Get a new toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. (Replace your toothbrush sooner if it’s wearing out.)

    Take Action!

    Floss every day.
    Floss every day to remove plaque and any food between teeth that your toothbrush missed. Rinse your mouth with water after you floss.

    If you aren’t sure if you are doing it right, ask the dentist or dental assistant to show you how to floss at your next appointment.

    Proper way to hold floss
    Flossing between upper teeth
    Flossing between lower teeth


    Take Action!

    Get regular checkups at the dentist.
    Visit a dentist once or twice a year for checkups and cleaning. Get checkups even if you have no natural teeth and have dentures. If you have problems with your teeth or mouth, see a dentist right away.

    Check out these questions to ask when choosing a dentist.

    If you don’t like going to the dentist, make your visit easier.
    Some people get nervous about going to the dentist. Try these tips to help make your visit to the dentist easier:

    • Let your dentist know you are feeling nervous.
    • Choose an appointment time when you won’t feel rushed.
    • Take headphones and a music player to your next appointment.

    What about cost?
    You can still get dental care even if you don’t have insurance.

    Take Action!

    Cut down on sugary foods and drinks.
    Choose low-sugar snacks like vegetables, fruits, and low-fat or fat-free cheese. Cut down on sugary soda and drinks that can lead to tooth decay.

    Quit smoking.
    Using tobacco in any form (cigarettes, cigars, pipe, spit tobacco) raises your risk for getting gum disease and oral (mouth) cancer.

    Drink alcohol only in moderation.
    Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your risk for oral cancer. If you choose to drink, have only a moderate amount. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.

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    Start Today: Small Steps