How to do good tooth care

A program to preserve teeth and gums

Tooth care should begin in early infancy. Even while gums are toothless, wipe them twice a day with a gauze pad to reduce decay-causing bacteria. Don’t let a baby go to sleep sucking a bottle of milk or fruit juice. Both liquids contain sugar, which feeds bacteria. The longer the bottle stays in the mouth, the greater the risk.

Proper tooth care for children or adults requires regular, thorough removal of plaque, a bacteria-containing film that forms on teeth. You can locate plaque deposits precisely by chewing what is called a disclosing tablet (sold in drugstores) or by rinsing your mouth with a few spoonfuls of water containing two or three drops of blue or green food coloring. Color will remain where plaque is collecting; give those areas special care.

Cleaning your teeth

The best toothbrush choice is soft nylon with rounded-end bristles and a flat brushing surface. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle where teeth and gums meet. Move it back and forth 10 strokes at each location; brush the outside, inside, and chewingsurfaces of all teeth.

Then use dental floss to remove plaque and to dislodge trapped food. Wind the ends of an 18-inch length around a finger on each hand. Hold the floss taut and, with a gentle sawing motion, draw it between teeth to the gumline. Gently scrape the gum-line, then the sides of the teeth. Brush and floss at least twice a day- if possible, immediately after meals.

Fluoridated water helps to reduce tooth decay. If your community’s water supply isn’t fluoridated, you can get fluoride tablets or drops for children from a dentist. Choose a fluoridated toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association.

You can further guard against decay by avoiding sweets (particularly those that dissolve slowly in the mouth); heavily sugared fruits; cookies; and pastries. See a dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.