Learning About Dental Care

Skip Navigation

What is basic dental care?

Basic dental care involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly to remove plaque. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that sticks to teeth above and below the gum line. It can build up and harden into tartar, which makes it harder to give the teeth a good cleaning. Tartar usually has to be removed by a dental hygienist.

The bacteria in plaque use sugars to make acids. These acids can damage the gums and teeth.

Be sure to see your dentist and dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings.

How can dental care affect your health?

Practicing basic dental care:

  • Removes plaque that can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Tooth decay can lead to a hole in the tooth (cavity).
  • Helps prevent bad breath. Brushing and flossing rid your mouth of the bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Helps keep teeth white by preventing staining from food, drinks, and tobacco.
  • Makes it possible for your teeth to last a lifetime.

What can you do to prevent dental problems?

  • Brush your teeth twice a day, in the morning and at night.
    • Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and a head that is small enough to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth.
    • Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
    • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
    • Place the brush at a 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Press firmly, and gently rock the brush back and forth using small circular movements.
    • Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short back-and-forth strokes.
    • Brush your tongue from back to front.
  • Floss at least once a day. Choose the type and flavor you like best.
  • Schedule checkups and cleanings as often as your dentist recommends it.
  • Eat a healthy diet to help keep your gums healthy and your teeth strong. Choose foods that are good for your teeth, such as whole grains, vegetables, or fruits.
  • Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar, especially sticky, sweet foods like taffy.
  • Don't snack before bedtime. Food left on the teeth is more likely to cause tooth decay overnight.
  • Don't smoke or use smokeless tobacco. Tobacco can make tooth decay worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chance of quitting for good.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter C432 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Dental Care".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.