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Basic Dental Care


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) diseaseClick here to see an illustration., which can damage gum tissue and the bonesClick here to see an illustration. that support teethClick here to see an illustration., 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.

When should your child start seeing a dentist?

By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems. If he or she thinks your child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months after the first primary teeth appearClick here to see an illustration., whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.

Experts recommend that your child's dental care start at 12 months of age. If your baby has dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem, see your pediatric dentist right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about basic dental care:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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