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Guide to brushing: 3 Essential steps

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Tips for brushing teeth

The benefits of brushing go beyond getting that piece of spinach dislodged from your teeth. Proper oral care can keep the enamel on your teeth strong and prevent dental caries and gum disease. It can even improve your overall health -- and that of your baby, if you are pregnant -- by reducing the risk of bacteria in your mouth from entering your bloodstream and causing problems in other parts of your body. Here are three essential steps to follow while brushing your teeth.

Guide to brushing your teeth: 3 Essential steps

1. Be diligent about daily brushing

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing at least twice a day -- after breakfast and before you go to bed. Brushing in the morning starts your day with fresh breath, removing the bacteria that formed on your teeth overnight, while brushing before bed removes food particles and bacteria that grew on your teeth during the day from beverages and meals. The ADA also recommends flossing daily to reach the tight spaces between your teeth and under your gumline where your toothbrush can't reach.

2. Use the right toothbrush and toothpaste

Even though clean teeth are crucial for dental health, there is no need to go overboard with brushing. In fact, brushing too vigorously or choosing a toothbrush with hard bristles can actually weaken enamel and damage your gums, causing recession and increasing your risk of an infection. Use a soft-bristled manual or electric toothbrush and a flouridated toothpaste for your daily dental care. Also, replace your toothbrush every three to four months or whenever the bristles become worn.

3. Tune up your brushing technique

It's easy to brush back and forth across the teeth you see when you smile, but every one of your teeth -- even those in the back -- need your dental attention. Brush all of your teeth, including the inside, outside and chewing surfaces, with short back-and-forth strokes. Brush your tongue, too; it harbors bacteria that can damage your teeth and gums.

Brushing is an important preventive measure for your dental health, but it also can help alert you to early dental disease. If you have any soreness, sensitivity or bleeding while brushing, make an appointment with your dentist to check things out, even if you aren't due for a visit. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent invasive and costly procedures.

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