Your smile deserves the best. If you believe that, chances are you already make sure to brush and floss your teeth every day. But chances are, you’re not getting peak tooth and gum protection out of your current regimen. If you’d like to achieve the ultimate in home dental care, check these easy tips:

TRY KINDER, GENTLER BRUSHING. Forget about hard scrubbing: You might do more harm than good. To avoid gum abrasion, use gentle pressure and short strokes. Don’t squash the bristle – the tips do the cleaning.

TAKE AIM AT PLAQUE. The most dangerous place for plaque to be is at the gum line. When this bacteria-laden film slips below the gum line, it can do real damage to both tooth and gums. You get rid of it by getting the right angle on brushing. Start by holding the toothbrush horizontal to your teeth. Then rotate it so the brush ends point upward toward the gum line for top teeth, downward for bottom teeth, at about a 45-degree angle. Then brush, using circular strokes, working the bristles into the crevices between teeth and gums.

NEVER BRUSH IN ONE SPOT TOO LONG. Start brushing in one spot count to 10, then move on to the next spot, suggests Athena Papas, director of the Rubenstein Oral Health Management Clinic at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Continuing this timed movement keeps you from concentrating too hard on one area and damaging your tooth enamel. (Exception: Your dentist may tell you to concentrate on a problem area that you’re not getting clean enough.)

GIVE YOURSELF QUALITY BRUSH TIME. You can rest assured that you’re doing a thorough job if you give yourself a five-minute minimum requirement of total daily brushing and flossing. And keep in mind that brushing your teeth two or three times per day is more effective than brushing only once a day.

DON’T GET ATTACHED TO YOUR TOOTH-BRUSH. A worn and weary brush with bristles curving outward won’t clean as effectively as a newer one.

ASK YOUR DENTIST ABOUT THE BEST BRUSH FOR YOU. The American Dental Association recommends a brush with soft, rounded or polished bristles – they’re easier on your gums. But not all brushes work for everybody. The size and contours of your mouth may call for an angled brush or a compact head to get a hard-to-reach places.

AIR OUT YOUR BRUSH. This can help prevent the accumulation of bacteria that cause gum disease and other illness. After brushing, rinse the brush well with water. Then, to help it air-dry thoroughly, store it in an open area (not in a tightly-closed medicine chest). If your brush doesn’t dry out, you can try altering between two different-colour toothbrushes each time you brush. That way each has plenty of time to dry before it’s used again.

DON’T FORGET THE FLOSS! It’s not yet a dental habit with most people. It should be – flossing removes plaque from between the teeth and under the gum line, areas where the toothbrush can’t reach. If you haven’t been in the habit of flossing, it’s never too late to start. Initially, your gums may bleed when you begin flossing. As your gums become healthier, the bleeding should stop in a few days.

When flossing, keep in mind these tips. Gently ease the floss between the teeth and gum line, never snap it. Form a “c” against the sides of both teeth and gently rub the floss up and down the tooth, moving it from under the gum line to the top of the tooth. Establish a regular pattern of flossing and remember to floss the backside of the last teeth.

It’s especially important for bridge-wearers to floss around the abutment teeth. These teeth must remain healthy if the bridge is to function properly.

TRY A LOOP OF FLOSS. If you find dental floss a bit too slippery to get a handle on, try making a loop by tying the ends of a 10-inch piece together. Floss by holding the loop taut between your thumbs and forefingers.

GET A GRIP ON YOUR TOOTHBRUSH. If you have dexterity problems or a physical disability, you may find it difficult to hold onto your toothbrush. This can be solved by using a few simple “home remedies” or devices listed below:

• Use a wide elastic band to attach the brush to your hand.
• Enlarge the brush handle with a sponge, rubber ball or bicycle handle grip. Also try winding an elastic bandage or adhesive tape around the handle.
• Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic such as a ruler or tongue depressor.

SEE WHAT YOU’RE MISSING. After brushing, chew on a disclosing tablet. Rinse your mouth and examine your teeth for plaque stained red by the tablet’ harmless dye. It indicates areas you need to concentrate on better.

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