Health library

Back to health library

Keep your teeth clean

You can save your smile from decay, discoloration and dental work by brushing and flossing properly.

Dental care isn't just a matter of brushing your teeth.

You also need to use the proper toothbrush and toothpaste, visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly, floss daily and choose a healthy diet.

The American Dental Hygienists' Association and American Dental Association offer these guidelines for good oral hygiene.

Your toothbrush and toothpaste

Choose a toothbrush with soft-nylon, round-ended bristles.

Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or when bristles spread or become worn.

Use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to decay.

Proper brushing

Brush your teeth twice a day. Start by placing your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth with the bristles pointing toward your gums. Starting at your gumline, gently brush the front, back and chewing surfaces of your teeth with a gentle back and forth scrubbing motion.

Change the position of your brush frequently since it can clean only two or three teeth at a time.

Brush your tongue from back to front to remove odor-producing bacteria.

Proper flossing

Floss daily to remove plaque between teeth and at the gumline.

Start by wrapping an 18-inch piece of floss around your middle fingers. Hold about an inch or two of floss between your thumbs and forefingers.

Keeping it taut, work the floss between your teeth. Curve it around your teeth and gumline, and gently rub the floss up and down and back and forth.

Use a clean section of floss as it becomes dirty or frayed.

Eat well

Choose a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Foods that are good for the rest of your body are good for your teeth and gums, too.

Reviewed 10/21/2021

Related stories