Dental Do  s and Don  ts: Everyday Habits for Healthier Teeth

A healthy mouth gives you more than a sexy smile. It provides protection against bacteria that can infect your teeth and gums and possibly cause health problems in other parts of your body. Here’s what to do (and what not to do) to keep your teeth clean and healthy:


  • Do brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush for at least two minutes. No hard scrubbing! Over time, aggressive brushing can irritate your gums, wear down tooth enamel, and increase sensitivity.
  • Do floss. While flossing, curve the string around the gum line at each tooth and floss under the gum, advises New York City dentist Albert Yee, DMD. Flossing removes both plaque and food from between your teeth.
  • Do brush and floss after every meal or, at minimum, in the morning after breakfast and before you go to sleep at night. If you eat sticky, sweet foods during the day, try to brush afterwards or rinse your mouth out with water.
  • Do use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your teeth.
  • Do brush your tongue and gums.
  • Do see your dentist regularly for cleaning and check-ups. Yee recommends at least twice a year. If you wait until you feel pain or sense that something’s wrong, it could turn out to be a much bigger (and more expensive) problem than you think.


  • Don’t use your teeth as pliers, scissors or grips. You can crack your teeth and dislodge dental work when you use your teeth instead of a tool to tear, open, or rip through tags, packages, or bottle tops.
  • Don’t chew on ice cubes. Big chunks of ice are too hard for your teeth, and their strength and freezing cold temperature can cause damage.
  • Don’t bite your nails. After a while, the pressure could actually shift your teeth.
  • Don’t drink a lot of soda and other carbonated drinks. The acid in sodas and acid-producing bacteria in your mouth that thrive on sugar can eat away at the enamel on your teeth and cause decay.
  • Don’t grind your teeth. Grinding can wear down and weaken your teeth and ultimately cause fractures. You may not be able to stop on your own, so consult with your dentist about mouth guards and other techniques to help prevent damage to your teeth.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking restricts blood flow to your gums and can ultimately lead to poor oral health.

Albert Yee, DMD, reviewed this article.


"Oral Health: Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancers. At a Glance 2010." National Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Accessed Mar 5, 2014.