Brushing - The reason we brush our teeth is to remove plaque. Plaque is a bacteria that builds up on teeth when they aren't brushed regularly. When plaque is left on the teeth, it hardens and becomes more difficult to remove. This hard plaque is called tartar. It's what the dental hygienist scrapes from your teeth at each cleaning, and if it isn't removed it will cause tooth decay and cavities.
In order to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, it's important to brush at least twice a day. Toothpaste helps clear bacteria because it contains abrasives. Using a fluoride toothpaste will help prevent new bacteria from forming. Putting fluoride on your teeth is like putting wax on a car. It temporarily acts as a protective coating. However, the toothpaste itself will not clean your teeth. The most important part of caring for your teeth is how you use your toothbrush.
It's important to be thorough with your brushing. Make sure you get all surfaces of your teeth–especially near your salivary glands where plaque tends to gather more rapidly. Your toothbrush is the most effective way to remove plaque. However, you don't need to brush hard. Hard brushing can cause your gumline to recede. Gum tissue is different than other tissue because it will not grow back once it has receded. The only way to replace lost gum tissue is through an expensive gum graft, in which tissue from the roof of your mouth is placed onto the receding gumline. To avoid this trouble, brush softly so that the bristles of your brush are always standing upright. It helps to hold your toothbrush like a pencil, rather than a hammer.
Flossing - Flossing, like brushing, reduces the amount of bacteria on the teeth. The bacteria feeds on leftover food particles, making it essential to remove food from between your teeth. As the bacteria feeds, it produces a toxin that irritates the gums. When the gums become enflamed, it's called gingivitis. If your gums bleed when you floss, it is a sign that there is a large amount of bacteria around your gums. Flossing daily will help remove the bacteria.
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