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Good oral hygiene is essential for maintaining a healthy mouth, preventing tooth decay, and gum disease. As the first part of your digestive system, food can get stuck in your teeth and gums and develop dental plaque. Properly cleaning your teeth is one of the most important steps in keeping your teeth and gums healthy and smile shining bright.

The 4 Steps to Cleaning Your Teeth.

Step 1: Flossing
When going to brush your teeth, you may not reach for floss first. However, flossing prior to brushing allows the fluoride, an enamel strengthening ingredient found in many toothpastes, to properly coat each tooth.

Whether you opt for string floss, dental tape, a Waterpik, or a floss pick, flossing at least once a day is an important step in a proper oral hygiene routine. Flossing removes plaque from areas where your toothbrush cannot reach. However, over flossing, or flossing too roughly, can cause gum damage or recession, so be careful to gently hug the natural curve of your tooth.

Step 2: Brush in circular motions
When cleaning your teeth, start in the front and brush in small, circular movements. Not only does this brushing technique help bristles reach into more nooks and crannies than brushing going back-and-forth does, but it also helps to improve gum circulation and reduces your risk of periodontal disease.

Once you have fully cleaned your front teeth, you’re ready to move backwards!

Step 3: Tilt your toothbrush towards your gum line
Angling your toothbrush to 45 degrees allows bristles to reach underneath the gum line and remove any residual plaque and/or bacteria.

As you move around, make sure you don’t apply too much pressure. Vigorously brushing your teeth can lead to gum recession and tooth sensitivity.

Step 4: Brush for 2 minutes
The Journal of Dental Hygiene found that the average person brushes their teeth for 45 seconds, less than half the recommended amount! Although 45 seconds may feel like enough time, brushing your teeth for the fully recommended time of two minutes removes 26% more plaque and helps prevent tartar buildup.

Great ways to help brush for two minutes are using a timer, an electric or smart toothbrush, or you can try following along an online video like this one with your children!

Bonus: Clean your tongue.
While brushing your tongue may feel weird, it is an important step to keep your teeth healthy and breath fresh! Since your mouth is the first part of the digestive system, most of the bacteria in it lives on your tongue.

To get rid of these bacteria, gently brush your tongue in circles, or use a specialized tongue scraper, which can be found in the dental section of most stores.

While flossing at least once and brushing twice a day is important, it is only part of a complete oral hygiene routine. The American Dental Association (ADA) also recommends using mouthwash after every time you brush and getting a dental exam every six months. To design the most beneficial oral care routine for you, consult with your Smile dentist and hygienist.