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Dental health: Preventive care

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The key to good dental health is a partnership between you and your dental professionals. Each plays an important role in establishing and maintaining good dental health through out your life.

Good dental health is important to maintaining a high, pain-free quality of life. Sound teeth and gums and a healthy mouth contribute significantly to your overall well-being.

The steps to preventing dental health problems are fairly simple and straightforward, however they require a commitment to a daily routine. This routine begins with infancy and continues (with some modifications) for the rest of your life.


Brushing your teeth twice a day (minimum) is the cornerstone of good dental health. Parents should begin when children are infants and continue until the child is able to brush by his or her self, usually age 6 or so. Many children require supervision to stay on task with brushing.

General guidelines for proper brushing:

  • Use toothpaste that contains fluoride (your dentist can recommend one)
  • Hold toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth and gums
  • Gently brush with circular motion
  • Brush inner surfaces of teeth with same motion
  • Use toothbrush tip to brush inner surfaces of upper and lower front teeth
  • Use scrubbing motion on chewing surfaces
  • Brush your tongue
  • R​inse your mouth well


Flossing breaks up plaque on the surfaces between your teeth and under your gums. Flossing once a day helps remove the plaque and food particles missed when brushing. It is an important step in your dental hygiene program.

General guidelines for proper flossing:

  • Use about 18 inches of floss wrapped around your middle finger
  • Hold the other end with your other hand
  • Work the floss between your teeth in an up and down motion
  • Make sure to floss the surfaces of both teeth
  • Also, floss below the gum line
  • Floss every tooth

For people with bridges, braces or other dental fixtures, you may need a threader or other device to help you clean in and around those areas. Ask your dental professional for instructions.

Your dentist or dental hygienist can help you with specific instructions on brushing, flossing and other dental preventive care methods.


Your diet plays an important role in dental health. It is important, especially for children to get the proper amount of fluoride, whether through the municipal water supply, supplements or applications by your dental professional.

Your dentist will know whether supplements or treatments are needed to meet the minimum fluoride standards.

Your diet should provide the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for healthy teeth and gums. A diet containing sugary snacks and sodas makes maintaining healthy teeth and gums difficult at best. In addition to its poor nutritional value, sugary foo​​ds and drinks lead to cavities and other serious dental problems.

If possible, brush your teeth after a sugary snack or drink. If that is not practical, rinse your mouth with plain water to remove some of the sugar from between your teeth.

Dental professionals

Your dentist and dental hygienist are the other part of your dental health team. In some cases, dentists with special training or medical doctors may supply specialized services.

Your dental health professionals include:

  • Dentist
  • Dental Hygienist

Dental specialists:

  • Periodontitist
  • Orthodontist
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

It is recommended you see your dentist twice a year under normal circumstances for routine examinations and procedures. If you have cavities or other problems, you may need to see your dentist more frequently.

If your dentist determines gum disease is present, you may be referred to a specialist in treating this problem. Periodontists have special training in treating gum disease and its complications.

Dental hygienists provide professional cleaning of your teeth, removing plaque that you have not removed through brushing and flossing. They also coach you on proper brushing and flossing techniques and work with the dentist to ensure the best dental health possible.

Other dental specialists include Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. These dentists complete four years of education beyond dental school and treat a variety of complicated dental conditions including:

  • Dental extractions
  • Wisdom tooth removal
  • Implant surgery
  • Corrective jaw surgery
  • Facial injuries
  • TMJ disorders (temporomandibular joint disorder)

Orthodontists are dentists who correct problems with crooked teeth, misaligned jaws and other biting or chewing problems. They use braces and other dental appliances to correct the problems. 

Orthodontists frequently work with older children and teens, however adults can also benefit from their expertise. ​