Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping your mouth clean and disease-free. It involves brushing and flossing your teeth as well as visiting your dentist regularly for dental X-rays, exams and cleanings.
Oral hygiene is preventative care. This means you can stop oral health problems — such as cavities, gum disease, bad breath (halitosis) and other issues — before they start by taking good care of your teeth and gums.
Oral health is also linked to whole-body health. For example, if an infection is present in your mouth, your bloodstream can carry the bacteria to other areas of your body, leading to other health concerns like heart disease and stroke. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is an important part of long-lasting overall health.
Research shows that gingivitis and periodontitis can contribute to certain health conditions, including:
Conversely, there are certain health conditions that can have a negative impact on your teeth and gums, including:
If you or a loved one has any of the conditions listed above, ask your dentist how to promote and support overall health through proper oral hygiene.
There are several warning signs that could indicate oral health problems. The most common signs of poor oral hygiene include:
Excellent oral hygiene protects your teeth and gums and keeps your smile beautiful. Here are some general oral hygiene instructions to keep your smile healthy:
Remember, the best oral hygiene routine is one that you can practice consistently. Talk to your dentist about a personalized oral health regimen to meet your needs.
When shopping for oral health products, the best rule of thumb is to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This seal, awarded by the American Dental Association, means that the product has been rigorously tested and approved by scientists in fields like microbiology, toxicology, pharmacology and chemistry.
Depending on your specific situation, your dentist may make personalized product recommendations. Ask your dentist which products are right for you.
While your dentist may be able to repair teeth damaged by decay or gum disease, it’s always preferable to stop problems before they start. This is where good oral hygiene comes in. Practicing good oral hygiene offers a wide range of benefits, including:
Additionally, preventative dental care is more affordable than restorative or emergency dental care. So, good oral hygiene can save you time, worry and money in the long run.
According to the American Dental Association, you should have exams and cleanings at regular intervals specified by your dentist. Many people need cleanings every six months to keep their teeth and gums healthy. But, if you’re prone to cavities or gum disease, your dentist may need to see you more often. For example, it’s common for people with gum disease to see their dentist every three to four months. This is because oral bacteria populates quicker in some individuals. Ask your dentist what type of cleaning schedule is right for you.
If it’s been more than six months since your last dental cleaning, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away. They can examine your teeth and gums and make recommendations tailored to your needs.
If you develop warning signs like tooth pain, bleeding gums, loose teeth or chronic bad breath, schedule a dental consultation. Treatment is necessary for eliminating harmful bacteria. By treating your oral health problems, you’ll give your overall health a boost as well.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Proper oral hygiene is the key to optimal oral health. Brushing, flossing and routine dental visits help keep your teeth and gums in tip-top condition. Regular dental visits also help your dentist detect and treat problems early, before they worsen. To learn more about proper oral hygiene or oral health products, talk to your dentist.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/21/2022.