Poor oral hygiene habits can lead to a variety of dental issues like cavities, gum disease, and tooth discoloration. Sometimes these dental problems can even affect the overall health of your body.

Follow these top 10 oral hygiene tips to ward off dental decay, illness, and other medical problems.

1) Brush Properly — and Enough

If you are brushing at least twice a day, but aren’t brushing properly, you may be doing more harm than good! The American Dental Association (ADA) says to brush in the following way to ward off dental issues:

  • Brush your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day.
  • Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle in relation to your gums, and use short strokes while brushing.
  • Start brushing outer tooth surfaces first, then move on to inner tooth surfaces, and finally chewing surfaces of your teeth.
  • When brushing the back side of your front teeth, hold your brush vertically and use gentle, up and down strokes.

2) Clean Your Tongue

You know those ridges found on the back of some toothbrushes? Those are for brushing your tongue! If you haven’t yet, think about using that tongue scraper once a day to remove bacteria from the surface of your tongue. This will not only help keep bad breath at bay, but can boost oral health, too.

3) Use the Correct Toothbrush

There are so many types of toothbrushes out there, but some are definitely better than others. The best types are electric toothbrushes since they can brush away more food particles and plaque. However, if you’re not in the market for an electric toothbrush, or you don’t like them, simply finding a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small enough head that can reach back to the crevices of your molars should be your go-to. Just make sure that the toothbrush has an ADA Seal of Acceptance.

4) Clean Your Toothbrush Thoroughly

You are probably thinking, “What? I need to clean my toothbrush?” You do need to clean your toothbrush unless you want new bacteria to breed and wind up in your mouth. The ADA says to rinse your toothbrush after each use and allow it to air dry. And whatever you do, don’t cover your toothbrush — this can lead to bacteria buildup. So, skip the toothbrush covers unless you need them for traveling.

5) Floss, Please!

Even if you brush regularly and correctly, if you don’t floss at night, your teeth and gums are sure to suffer. Flossing your teeth removes food particles and plaque buildup that toothbrushes just can’t reach. If you leave the gunk there, tartar will surely form and eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease. In case you need a refresher, here is the correct way to floss your teeth.

6) Rinse Your Mouth

Sure, mouthwash works great as a breath freshener, but it can also have oral health-boosting abilities. Some special mouthwashes can strengthen your teeth, prevent plaque from forming, and fight off gingivitis before it even starts. Talk to your dentist about therapeutic mouthwashes that can help with oral hygiene if you’re interested in more than just over-the-counter mouthwashes.

7) After Using a Toothbrush for 3 Months, Replace It

If you’re brushing your teeth regularly and properly, you will find that your toothbrush bristles will lose their shape. Over time, bristles actually deteriorate, so it’s best to replace your toothbrush every three months (sometimes four) if you want your teeth and gums to get clean. If you schedule regular dental exams, our dentists will even give you a new toothbrush after your appointment if needed.

8) Stop Snacking at Midnight

If you are one of those people who craves a late-night snack, it may not be doing your oral health any good. This is especially true if you eat your midnight snack and then hop back into bed without brushing and flossing your teeth again. If you can help it, stop the late-night snacks if you want to keep cavities from forming. That, or eat healthy foods that can actually boost your oral health — and clean your teeth again before going back to bed. Always.

9) Quit Tobacco ASAP

Are you still smoking or chewing tobacco? If so, your teeth and gums are suffering. Even if you follow all of the other oral hygiene tips on this list, you won’t see many of the benefits they provide if you use tobacco products. Using these substances increase your risk for dental decay, gum disease, and even oral cancer (which is often a preventable disease). When you stop smoking or chewing tobacco, you will lessen your risk for developing oral cancer, and your teeth and gums will be healthier.

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