Brushing and flossing your teeth can make a big difference in preventing tooth decay. Cleaning your teeth does not have to be a chore. If you do it every day, brushing and flossing become a habit, just like taking a shower or combing your hair.
Be sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride in it. Many cities now add fluoride to their drinking water. Thanks to fluoride, children today get far fewer cavities than they did many years ago.
You should brush your teeth after every meal. That’s not always easy—especially if you like to have snacks during the day. But be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day—when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed. Researchers found that if teeth are cleaned at least once within 24 hours, bacteria cannot make enough acid to damage them.
You should get a new toothbrush about every two to three months. Bacteria can grow in a toothbrush, so you put germs into your mouth when you use it.
You should also floss at least once a day. Bacteria feed on food that is left between your teeth. Moving a strand of dental floss back and forth between your teeth will remove the bits of food that you missed while you were brushing. Moving the floss up and down between the teeth will help prevent plaque build-up.
What kind of foods do you eat? Do you eat a lot of vegetables and fruits? What about candy? We’re told to stay away from sweets like cookies and candy. But you might be surprised to find out that foods like cornflakes and raisins may be to blame for the holes in your teeth. Starches like potato chips and crackers may not taste sweet, but to bacteria, they’re just like lollipops. Saliva breaks starches down into a sugar, called maltose, and bacteria really like maltose. Starches are especially bad for your teeth because they actually stick around longer than sugars do. This gives bacteria more time to cause cavities.
There’s an old saying that “Milk does a body good.” It’s true. Milk, cheese, and green vegetables contain calcium, which helps keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy. Other substances in these foods are also good for your teeth.
If you watch what you eat, brush and floss your teeth after meals, and visit the dentist regularly, you will help make your teeth the best that they can be.
Maybe someday we will live in a world without cavities. It may sound like a fantasy, but scientists have been working on vaccines against tooth-decay bacteria. In 2011, researchers reported on a new vaccine that cuts down the amount of bacteria growing on teeth—and greatly reduces the number of cavities.
Researchers are also working on ways to fix cavities without that painful drilling. For example, they have developed a gel that can be dabbed onto an infected tooth. A chemical in the gel helps rebuild the tooth! Experiments showed that after about a month of treatment, the cavities disappeared.
With all these promising studies, visits to the dentist may be less frequent and much more pleasant in the future.
Have Some Cheese Please
Have a piece of cheddar cheese for a snack. Cheese increases the amount of saliva that flows in your mouth. As you know, saliva helps clean your teeth and cuts down the acid made by bacteria. So, when you eat cheese, you are actually helping to protect your teeth.
How to Brush Your Teeth
Here are some general rules for a complete cleaning:
- Move your toothbrush up and down and in circles.
- Brush the top teeth downward from the gums.
- Brush the bottom teeth upward from the gums.
- Brush the backs and chewing surfaces of all the teeth.Brush for at least two minutes for strong, clean teeth. (The average person brushes for only 45 seconds.)
- Rinse thoroughly—and smile!
Activity 2: How Clean Are Your Teeth?
You can find out by using disclosing tablets or a special mouthwash that colors the plaque on your teeth with a bright vegetable dye. You can buy the tablets from the drugstore, or your dentist may give you some samples.
Chew a tablet for 30 seconds but do not swallow it. Your teeth will be covered with a bright color, such as red or purple. Wash your mouth out with water. Look at your teeth in a mirror. Where are the darkest color stains? These places show where the plaque buildup is. Now you know where you need to brush your teeth better next time.