FAQ


Prevention

What Is the Right Way to Brush?
Proper brushing takes at least two minutes — that's right, 120 seconds! Most adults do not come close to brushing that long. To get a feel for the time involved, try using a stopwatch. To properly brush your teeth, use short, gentle strokes, paying extra attention to the gumline, hard-to-reach back teeth, and areas around fillings, crowns or other restoration. Concentrate on thoroughly cleaning each section as follows:

What Type of Toothbrush Should I Use?
Most dental professionals agree that a soft-bristled brush is best for removing plaque and debris from your teeth. Small-headed brushes are also preferable, since they can better reach all areas of the mouth, including hard-to-reach back teeth. For many, a powered toothbrush is a good alternative. It can do a better job of cleaning teeth, particularly for those who have difficulty brushing or who have limited manual dexterity.

How Important Is the Toothpaste I Use?
It is important that you use a toothpaste that's right for you. Today there is a wide variety of toothpaste designed for many conditions, including cavities, gingivitis, tartar, stained teeth and sensitivity. Ask your dentist or hygienist which toothpaste is right for you.

How Often Should I Replace My Toothbrush?
You should replace your toothbrush when it begins to show wear, or every three months, whichever comes first. It is also very important to change toothbrushes after you've had a cold, since the bristles can collect germs that can lead to reinfection.

What Is Proper Nutrition?
Proper nutrition means eating a balanced diet so your body can get the nutrients needed for good health. Every day, your body renews itself, building new muscle, bone, skin and blood. The foods you eat provide the building blocks for these new tissues. If your diet is low in the nutrients your body needs, your mouth may have a more difficult time resisting infection.

If children do not eat a balanced diet, their teeth may not develop properly. In order for them to develop strong, decay-resistant teeth, children need a balanced diet with emphasis on calcium, phosphorous, and proper levels of fluoride.

What Are the Different Types of Nutrients?
A balanced diet consists of the following nutrients:

Since our bodies are not able to manufacture all the nutrients we need, especially certain vitamins, we must get them from food or supplements. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises eating the following each day for the general population:

Why Is it Important to Eat Right?
A poor diet can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Foods high in carbohydrates, sugars and starches greatly contribute to the production of plaque acids that attack tooth enamel. Eventually, these acids can cause tooth enamel to break down, forming a cavity.

If you must eat foods high in sugar or starch, try to eat them during meals rather than between meals, and avoid any foods that stick to your teeth as these can produce more plaque. Most meals already contain acid-producing ingredients so, the less you expose your teeth to these ingredients, the less plaque acids attack your tooth enamel. Also, saliva production rises during meals, helping rinse food from the mouth.

How Do I Care for My Baby's Teeth?
Good oral care starts from the beginning of your child's life. Even before his or her first teeth emerge, certain factors can affect their future appearance and health. For instance, tetracycline, a common antibiotic, can cause tooth discoloration. For this reason, they should not be used by nursing mothers or by expectant mothers in the last half of pregnancy.

Since baby teeth usually emerge around six months of age, standard oral health procedures like brushing and flossing aren't required for infants. However, infants have special oral health needs that every new parent should know about. These include guarding against baby bottle decay and making sure your child is receiving enough fluoride.

What Is Baby Bottle Decay and How Can I Prevent it?
Baby bottle decay is caused by frequent exposure, over time, to liquids containing sugars. These include milk, formula, and fruit juices. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth for long periods of time as your baby sleeps, leading to cavities that first develop in the upper and lower front teeth. For this reason, you shouldn't let your baby fall asleep with a bottle of juice or milk in his mouth. Instead, at naptime, give your child a bottle filled with water or a pacifier recommended by your dentist. If you breast-feed, avoid letting the baby nurse continuously. And after each feeding, wipe your baby's teeth and gums with a clean, damp washcloth or a gauze pad.

What Is Fluoride and How Do I Know if My Baby is Getting the Right Amount?
Fluoride is beneficial even before your child's teeth begin to erupt. It strengthens the tooth enamel as the teeth are forming. In many municipal water supplies, the right amount of fluoride is added for proper tooth development. To find out whether your water contains fluoride, and how much, call your local water district. If your water supply does not contain any (or enough) fluoride, talk to your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride drops that can be given to your baby daily. If you use bottled water for drinking and cooking, be sure to tell your doctor or dentist. They may prescribe fluoride supplements for the baby.

How Can Teenagers Keep Their Teeth Bright and Healthy?
The best way for teens to enjoy a nice smile and healthy teeth is to continue the good oral habits started early in childhood. Whether or not you wear braces or other orthodontic treatment, it is important to:

In addition to helping teeth last a lifetime, a clean mouth simply makes you feel good. It also gives you fresher breath and a nicer looking smile.

What Special Dental Issues Should a Teenager Know About?
Dental problems can and do occur during the teen years. Becoming better informed about issues that effect oral health can make it easier to make the best decisions.

How Can I Help Make My Teeth Look Whiter?
Thorough cleanings by a dentist or hygienist will remove most external staining caused by food and tobacco. Using a whitening toothpaste can also help remove these surface stains between dental visits. If stains have been present for years, you may need to have your teeth professionally whitened to remove these more stubborn external stains.

Internal stains can be bleached, bonded or capped (crowned). While each of these methods is safe and effective, your dentist will recommend which treatment is appropriate for you depending on the state of your teeth and the results that you wish to achieve.

How Do I Best Care for My Teeth as an Adult?
The key to keeping a bright, healthy smile throughout adulthood is to practice proper oral hygiene. Even adults can get cavities, as well as gum disease, that can lead to serious problems. Throughout your adult life, it's important to continue to: