3 Steps to Healthier Teeth and Gums

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Your mouth is full of germs. Many belong there, but some, like plaque, can be harmful. This sticky bacteria forms on your teeth shortly after you eat, producing acids that can cause decay and toxins that can lead to gum disease, which you definitely want to avoid. A recent study found that men with advanced gum disease had four times greater risk for heart troubles and stroke than men with healthy teeth and gums.

The good news is that you can take steps to stop plaque and other oral invaders. Start with these three.

1. Take two
How long does it take you to brush your teeth? Try timing yourself. For most people, it takes about half a minute, which just isn't long enough. In fact, how much time you spend cleaning your teeth is just as important as how often you do it. Dentists generally recommend brushing for 3 to 4 minutes, but 2 minutes will do the trick. Break it into four 30-second sections: top fronts; top backs; bottom fronts; and bottom backs. Hint: Electric toothbrushes can help extend brushing sessions because they run for a set amount of time.

2. Get stuck in a rut
Brushing your teeth every day is automatic for most people. Flossing should be, too. When you do floss, it's best to stick with a regular pattern, always starting and ending at the same point. That way, you'll know you've hit all your teeth. Gently guide the floss between your teeth, moving it up and down against each tooth, removing any plaque and debris. Hint: If you're all thumbs and have trouble manipulating floss, consider using a floss holder.

3. Obey your thirst
Your body's best defense against cavities is saliva. It dilutes a variety of substances that could harm your teeth, so keep the salivary juices flowing by drinking plenty of water. Try adding a little lemon juice for extra protection. And skip the soda and sugary beverages. These are doubly destructive for your teeth because the acidity destroys the protective enamel -- even sugar-free sodas -- and the sugar promotes decay. Hint: Chewing gum also helps stimulate salivation. Opting for brands that contain the artificial sweetener xylitol will curb bacteria growth even more.

More On

Are Mercury Fillings Really Dangerous?

video

Are Mercury Fillings Really Dangerous?
It's unknown if mercury fillings are really dangerous to your health, but there is research that shows that long-term exposure to mercury could be tox...
The Easiest Way to a Healthy Mouth? A Simple 1-2-3

article

The Easiest Way to a Healthy Mouth? A Simple 1-2-3
Remember what the YOU Docs say: Brush and floss only the teeth you want to keep. And you definitely want to keep all of your choppers. Not just for th...
7 Bad Habits That Wreck Your Teeth

slideshow

7 Bad Habits That Wreck Your Teeth
From sipping sugary sodas to chewing on pen caps, some common habits are terrible for your teeth.
What Is a Composite Resin Dental Filling?

video

What Is a Composite Resin Dental Filling?
A composite resin dental filling is made from a tooth-colored, plastic material that is generally referred to as bonding material. Watch dental expert...
Are There Natural Ways to Whiten My Teeth?

video

Are There Natural Ways to Whiten My Teeth?
You can whiten your teeth using two ingredients straight out of your kitchen, says veganist and best-selling author Kathy Freston. Learn what they are...