6 habits to preserve long-term dental health

Keeping a healthy smile is a product of how well you practice daily habits. When you’re committed to brushing, flossing, maintaining a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water, you not only ensure good dental health but also good overall health. Consider how your investments of time and resources add up if you practice 6 habits over 5 years:



How do your healthy habits add up?

You may be surprised by the totals from five years (including one leap year) of good oral health. 

1. Brushing your teeth

You brush your teeth regularly to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. If you don’t brush, a sticky film of bacteria builds up and can cause tooth decay, gum disease and other problems. In fact, oral bacteria and severe gum disease might also play a role in developing health issues outside of the mouth, including diabetes and heart disease. To remove plaque, brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.

5-year total: 7,304 minutes (more than 5 days!)

2. Changing your toothbrush

If you use the same toothbrush for too long, it can become less effective at removing plaque. As the bristles break down, it’s more difficult to reach places a new toothbrush can. To maintain maximum effectiveness, change your toothbrush (or toothbrush head on an electric toothbrush) every three months — or sooner if the bristles begin to look frayed or worn.


5-year total: Approximately 20 new toothbrushes or toothbrush heads

3. Using fluoride toothpaste

Toothpaste almost always contains fluoride — a vital mineral that strengthens tooth enamel, protects teeth from decay and helps prevent acids from causing cavities. That’s why you should use fluoride toothpaste every time you brush. While you only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste each time, even that small amount adds up.

5-year total: More than 2 pounds of toothpaste

4. Flossing

Brushing isn’t enough to clean the entire surface of your teeth. To remove plaque from between your teeth, you need to floss as well. If you don’t remove plaque, it can harden into tartar that collects along your gum line. You should floss daily with an 18-inch piece of floss to prevent tartar buildup.

5-year total: More than 1/2 mile of floss

5. Drinking water

Water helps clean your mouth by washing away cavity-causing sugars and acids. Drinking water regularly can also relieve or prevent dry mouth. When left unchecked, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and more. While the amount of water needed varies by individual, you should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses daily for oral health benefits and to prevent dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic.

5-year total: 913 gallons of water at minimum

6. Visiting the dentist

During a regular dental exam, your dentist can uncover cavities, gum disease and oral cancer early on, when they are easier and less costly to treat. An exam can also indicate other health conditions, including diabetes, Crohn’s disease and blood disorders, that show signs in your mouth. To prevent such problems, a dental cleaning can eliminate tartar and bacteria buildup and protect the integrity of your teeth, while brightening your smile.

5-year total: At least 5-10 dental visits for exams and preventive treatments