When you get your picture taken, everyone says, “Say cheese! Smile!” So you do – you open your mouth and show your teeth. When you see the picture, you see a happy person looking back at you. The healthier those teeth are, the happier you look. Why is that?
It’s because your teeth are important in many ways. If you take care of them, they’ll help take care of you. Strong, healthy teeth help you chew the right foods to help you grow. They help you speak clearly. And yes, they help you look your best.
Why Healthy Teeth Are Important
How does taking care of your teeth help with all those things? Taking care of your teeth helps prevent plaque, which is a clear film that sticks to your teeth. The film itself might not sound so bad, but it’s very sticky, and it acts like a magnet for bacteria and sugar.
Like ants at a picnic, bacteria go crazy over the sugar on your teeth, breaking it down into acids that eat away tooth enamel, causing holes called cavities. Plaque also causes gingivitis, which is gum disease that can make your gums red, swollen, and sore. Your gums are those soft pink tissues in your mouth that hold your teeth in place.
If you don’t take care of your teeth, it won’t be long before cavities and unhealthy gums make your mouth very, very sore. Eating meals will be difficult. And you won’t feel like smiling so much.
How You Can Keep Your Teeth Healthy
- Brush at least twice a day – after breakfast and before bedtime. If you can, brush after lunch or after sweet snacks. Brushing properly breaks down plaque.
- Brush all of your teeth, not just the front ones. Spend some time on the teeth along the sides and in the back. Brush away from your gums.
- Take your time while brushing. Spend at least 3 minutes each time you brush. If you have trouble keeping track of the time, use a timer or play a recording of a song you like to help pass the time.
- Be sure your toothbrush has soft bristles (the package will tell you if they’re soft). Be sure to get a new toothbrush every 3 months. Some toothbrushes come with bristles that change color when it’s time to change them.
- Learn how to floss your teeth, which is a very important way to keep them healthy. It feels weird the first few times you do it, but pretty soon you’ll be a pro. Slip the dental floss between each tooth and up along the gum line. The floss gets rid of food that’s hidden where your toothbrush can’t get it, no matter how well you brush.
It’s also important to visit the dentist twice a year. Besides checking for signs of cavities or gum disease, the dentist will help keep your teeth extra clean, and he or she can help you learn the best way to brush and floss.
It’s not just brushing and flossing that keep your teeth healthy – you also need to be careful about what you eat and drink. Remember, the plaque on your teeth is just waiting for that sugar to arrive. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and drink water instead of soda. And don’t forget to smile!