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Brushing and flossing your teeth is important not only for preserving your teeth, but also for your overall health. Brushing removes a thin film of bacteria called plaque that sticks to your teeth. If it is ignored, plaque can cause cavities and gum disease. Brush your teeth for at least two minutes. One way to do that is to look at the second hand of a nearby clock, or mentally count to 120 while brushing your teeth. Teeth Brushing Pointers  * Use short, gentle strokes. * Make sure you brush near the gumline. * Include a careful brushing of your back teeth. * Be sure to get the areas around crowns and fillings. Systematically Clean the Different Sections of Your Teeth  * First, clean the outer surface of your upper teeth, then the outer surface of your lower teeth. * Next, clean the inner surface of your upper teeth, then the inner surface of your lower teeth. * After that, clean the chewing surfaces of your teeth. * You may want to then brush off your tongue. This may improve your breath. Choosing the Right Toothbrush  Toothbrushes with small heads make it easier to get to the back teeth and other hard-to-reach areas. Soft nylon-bristled toothbrushes are believed to be best for cleaning away food debris and plaque from your teeth, without eroding tooth enamel or irritating gums. Power toothbrushes do a good job. Replace your toothbrush after three months, or when it begins to show wear with the bristles splayed out. There are also toothbrushes whose handles change color when it is time to replace them or when a blue color on some of the bristles fades. Rinse your toothbrush after use and store it upright and exposed to the air. This will prevent bacteria from growing on it. Choosing the Right Toothpaste  There are a large number of toothpastes, including special kinds that focus on conditions such as gingivitis or tartar, offer cavity prevention with fluoride, or are for people with sensitive teeth. Your dentist will recommend the best toothpaste for you.

How to Floss  Flossing should be done at least once per day. Ideally, it should be done after every time you eat. If you floss correctly, you will remove plaque and food particles from beneath your gumline and between your teeth, places you can't easily reach with a toothbrush * Start with about 18 inches of floss. Hold the floss between the thumb and index finger of each hand, and wind most of it around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with. * Slide the floss gently up and down between your teeth. * Curve the floss around the base of each tooth. Make sure you go beneath the gumline. Be gentle with the floss. Forcing the floss between your teeth may or cut your gum tissue. * Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth. About the Author