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Healthy Living: Better brushing, better teeth

You’ve been brushing your teeth since you could hold a toothbrush. But, unfortunately, for many of us, practice hasn’t made perfect: The American Dental Hygienists’ Association estimates that 75 percent of adults have some form of periodontal disease.

National Dental Hygiene Month, which is observed annually in October, has just concluded. And with your house probably full of Halloween candy this week, there’s no better time than now to, ahem, brush up on your brushing habits. Make sure you’re following current recommendations from dental health experts:

  • You don’t need a fancy electric toothbrush. An inexpensive one does the job just fine – as long as it has soft, rounded, nylon bristles. Harder bristles can damage teeth and gums.
  • Brushing properly takes time – at least two minutes! Most adults don’t brush that long. Take a timer into the bathroom and test yourself. Keep using the timer until you recognize what two minutes feels like, and you’ve retrained yourself to brush for the proper length of time.
  • Yes, you need to floss, too. Flossing daily helps eliminate dental plaque, which builds up between teeth, eating away at tooth enamel and irritating your gums. If you hate flossing or find it awkward, buy a floss holder, or use dental “picks” or flossers, little disposable plastic holders pre-strung with a little floss.
  • Flouride toothpastes are recommended for both adults and children by the American Dental Association. Flouride is recommended by most dentists because it both removes plaque and strengthens enamel, decreasing the risk of cavities and helping people retain their permanent teeth.
  • Replace your toothbrush at least every three months. Not only do the bristles wear out and become less effective, but old brushes can harbor bacteria that cause colds, flus or cold sores.

Over time, poor oral hygiene can lead to a host of problems – from cavities to gingivitis (gum inflammation) to other more painful and chronic diseases of the mouth, teeth and gums. Recent studies have even suggested that periodontal disease may even be linked to heart disease, though the connection requires much more study.

So pick up that brush!

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