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As the song goes, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile,” so let’s make it a good one. Daily brushing and flossing can keep your teeth, mouth, gums, and tongue clean and healthy for your best-ever smile.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time, or 2 x 2. Chances are you’ve been brushing for far less than 120 seconds, but it’s time to change old habits. You need the time to make sure you’re getting to all the spots where plaque and bacteria hang out. If bacteria stays on your teeth for even just 24 hours, it can harden and cause plaque, leading to tartar. These coatings and buildups may require a professional cleaning to remove, and if left untreated, can lead to gum disease and the loss of teeth.

Now that you know how important cleaning your teeth is, let’s brush up on the how.

Picking the right toothbrush

Always go for the soft toothbrush. Brushing too hard with the medium- or hard-bristled brushes can cause gum recession. Smaller headed toothbrushes will allow you to reach those trickier spots, and electric toothbrushes are designed to apply the right amount of pressure for the perfect cleaning. Replace your toothbrush every three months, even if it still looks good.

The truth about toothpaste

Always pick a toothpaste that’s certified by the American Dental Association. You’ll see a seal right on the packaging. Most toothpastes are anti-cavity, which is a great choice. Fluoride products are essential for kids and adults with diabetes and other conditions. Sensitive teeth and gum pastes work well for mild to severe pain. And, there are both over the counter and prescription anti-gingivitis toothpastes.

Toothpastes you should toss back on the store shelf are whitening ones with abrasive ingredients such as walnut shells or plastic microbeads. They can damage your enamel. And, activated charcoal powders can discolor your teeth and erode your enamel.

The How-To

The number one rule is to be gentle. Loosen your grip on your toothbrush. More often than not, you brush with your fist wrapped around the handle, ready to take on your teeth. But brushing too hard can be abrasive and bad for your gums, so ease up. Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle, and clean the front, back, and chewing surface in an up-and-down motion. And don’t forget about your tongue. Bacteria left on your tongue can cause bad breath and be transferred to your teeth.

Don’t Forget the Floss

Use 18 to 24 inches of floss. Pinch the floss with your thumbs or wrap it around your middle fingers, and hook it around each tooth in a c-shape. Move the floss back and forth and up and down to remove any bacteria or plaque. It doesn’t matter if you floss in the morning or night; it’s just important that you’re doing it.

A lot of factors play into a beautiful smile. The best thing you can do is practice great oral hygiene, steer clear of sugar, and visit Fienman Dental every six months.

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