Keeping Your Mouth Clean

What are the benefits of keeping my mouth clean?

Keeping your mouth clean helps prevent disease.

  • Sticky plaque builds up on everyone's teeth every day and this can lead to gum disease. The gum comes away from the teeth, making the plaque more difficult to clean away. This makes gum disease worse. You can stop gum disease starting by cleaning your teeth carefully.
  • Just brushing your teeth will not prevent tooth decay. You need to brush with fluoride toothpaste. This helps the tooth mend itself after being attacked by plaque acids. Thorough brushing gets fluoride all around the mouth.
  • Teeth also erode. This means they dissolve away when you have acidic food and drink too often. Rinsing acids away with water always helps to prevent erosion.

As well as cleaning your teeth and gums thoroughly, try to have sticky and acidic food and drink less often.

How should I brush my teeth?

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with a soft-to-medium brush and fluoride toothpaste. Replace the brush when the bristles get out of shape.
  • Put the bristles at the join between teeth and gums, pointing towards the gums using short circular motions.
  • Brush all around every tooth, carefully making sure you can feel the brush on your gums.
  • Don't use too much force – give your teeth and gums a gentle scrub.
  • Small children usually cannot brush properly until they are eight or nine so brush their teeth yourself. One way is to stand behind your child and tilt their head back so you can reach around all their teeth.

How should I floss?

Dental floss helps you clean between your teeth. Your dentist or hygienist will tell you whether you need to floss. If you do, they will show you how to do it. You may need to practise in front of a mirror.

  • Use about 18 inches of floss. Wrap the ends around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving two of three inches between the first finger and the thumb.
  • Gently slide the floss between two teeth and put it round one tooth, next the gum, using your fingers.
  • Move the floss up and down the side of the tooth several times.
  • Do the same for every tooth

Children do not need to use floss.