Dental health 101

Children give us so many opportunities to find out just how much we don’t know about the world. Sometimes it’s broad things like, “Why is the sky blue?” but it can also be simple questions like, “How do I keep my teeth healthy?” You know that you should be brushing every day, but do you know why? Catching up on your dental health knowledge will help you keep your teeth healthy and better able to answer the many, many toddler questions to come in the future.


Okay, you know this one. Brushing your teeth is absolutely essential for your dental health. It’s recommended that you brush twice a day with a soft brush, though there are some people who choose to brush after every meal. It can help to use an electric toothbrush. Make sure to brush all of each tooth, including where the tooth meets the gum, and your tongue.

When you brush your teeth, the American Dental Association recommends using fluoride toothpaste, which will help remove food, plaque, and bacteria. If you don’t remove plaque, it hardens into tartar, and if you don’t remove food, it breaks down your tooth enamel.


Some people like flossing, or they at least try to floss when they can. Some people dislike, hate, or totally avoid it at all costs. This probably isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but flossing is really important for your overall dental health and hygiene. It helps remove plaque and prevent gum disease, cavities, and tooth decay.

Use about 18 inches (46 centimeters) to floss your teeth, using a new section of floss for each tooth. It might be painful if you don’t floss regularly, but it does get easier for most people as they start flossing more often.

If you don’t like flossing, you might consider investing in a water flosser, a small machine that shoots a stream of water between your teeth to help remove plaque. Water flossers aren’t considered to be a replacement for brushing and flossing, but if you’re not flossing at all otherwise, it’s still a dental hygiene improvement and can greatly improve your oral health. There are also dental picks, tiny brushes, and pre-threaded flossers that can make flossing easier.

Anything else?

Your tongue and gums will see benefits from brushing and flossing, but you can also use mouthrinses or mouthwash to help prevent tooth decay, plaque, gingivitis, and tartar. It also helps to drink plenty of water and replace your toothbrush every three or four months. If you’re looking for whitening toothpaste or products, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. For all dental products, try to look for ones recommended by the American Dental Association or other reputable organizations.

When to see a dentist

Your dentist can let you know how often they think you should be coming in, but it’s generally recommended that people see a dentist at least every six months. If you take amazing care of your teeth, your dentist might only need to see you every two years. If you’re at particular risk of gum disease or other dental issues, it might be as frequently as every three months. You should also make sure to see a dentist if one of your teeth hurts or if you have any concerns about your dental health.

  • Salinas, Thomas. “When and how often should you brush your teeth?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. May 3, 2016. Web.
  • Carr, Alan. “Is it more effective to floss teeth with a water pick or standard dental floss?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. February 18, 2015.
  • “Learn More About Mouthrinses.” ADA. American Dental Association. 2017. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Oral health: Brush up on dental care basics.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. May 3, 2016.
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