Taking care of your teeth

Teeth have a huge influence on your appearance and overall health. Keep them clean, white and healthy and you have a wonderful asset. Neglect them and your appearance and health both suffer. Daily care, along with a healthy diet and regular visits to your dental practice, will keep your smile in top condition.

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Daily oral care

Brush your teeth two times a day

Just as 'cleanse, tone, moisturise' is the mantra for your face, the regimen for adults' good daily oral care is ‘brush, floss, scrape'.

Choose a soft toothbrush that fits your mouth, so you can reach to the back of the last molar easily. Brush your teeth at least two times a day.  

Use the following tips to make your brushing more effective.

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste, which helps to protect teeth from decay.
  • Start in the same part of your mouth every time and follow the same pattern – that way you are less likely to miss anything.
  • When brushing the outside and inside surfaces of your teeth, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, pointing towards the gums.
  • Brush each tooth individually, with a short back and forward stroke.
  • Brush the biting surface of your teeth as well – food can get stuck in the ridges and cause dental decay.
  • Use the tip of your toothbrush to clean the inside of your front teeth (incisors).
  • Brush your teeth for at least two minutes – if you finish sooner, go back and start again!

Floss between your teeth once a day

  • Floss between your teeth preferably once daily, or at least 3 or 3 times a week, after brushing.
  • Use a length of about 45cm of floss and wind each end around a finger on your left and right hands.
  • Keep the floss taut between the fingers and gently guide it between the first pair of teeth – be careful not to cut down into the gum.
  • Follow the curve of the tooth below the gum line, between the gum and the tooth.
  • Slide the floss up and down the tooth and then back up, and down the side of the adjacent tooth.
  • Repeat this for every tooth, including the back surface of your last molar.
  • As you move from one tooth to the next, take up the used floss with one finger, winding clean floss off the other finger.

Additional oral care

Scrape your tongue daily

  • The back of your tongue can harbour more debris and bacteria than any other part of your mouth. Many people recommend brushing, while others suggest that the only truly efficient way of removing this bacteria and debris is by scraping.
  • You can purchase tongue scrapers in most pharmacies, but a teaspoon will also do the trick when turned bowl-up. Tongue-scraping is recommended once a day.

Chew sugar-free gum

  • Chewing sugar-free gum encourages the production of saliva. Saliva is important because it neutralises acid levels in your mouth (acid can promote tooth decay), it has antibacterial properties and it helps wash food debris away.

Rinse with mouthwash

  • A mouthwash can add to your existing oral care routine and may help guard against halitosis (bad breath).

Visit your dentist or dental hygienist regularly

  • A once-yearly visit to your hygienist or dentist to have your teeth checked and cleaned will help to ensure you maintain healthy teeth and gums. Your dentist will advise you how often you should return for a check up.

Diet is an essential supporting act

A diet that is low in sugar and rich in calcium, phosphate and fluoride will give your body good building blocks for teeth. Drinking plenty of water will also help ensure you have enough saliva to help keep cavity-forming bacteria and acids at bay.

You know you have good oral health when:

  • your gums are pink and do not hurt or bleed when you floss or brush
  • you have clean teeth that do not feel ‘furry’ and have no food between them
  • you do not have a problem with ongoing bad breath.

Learn more

Older people oral health Healthy Smiles, NZ Dental Association, 2015