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Brushing, flossing still best bets to fight plaque

A recent television commercial for mouthwash stated that the product was "as effective as floss at fighting plaque and gingivitis". A federal judge ruled that the commercial was "false and misleading" and ordered the company to change its advertising because this message could lead to a public health risk.

Plaque is responsible for both tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease. Gingivitis is a mild and reversible form of periodontal disease that affects only the gums. Untreated, gingivitis may lead to a more serious, destructive form of periodontal disease called periodontitis, which is the inflammation of tissue supporting the teeth.

Most mouth rinses are effective oral antiseptics that freshen the mouth and curb bad breath for up to three hours. Their effectiveness in preventing tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease is limited, however. Here is the recommended regimen for good oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to brush for at least two minutes. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends brushing for as long as three to four minutes; it takes several minutes of brushing to do a thorough job.
  • Use floss or an interdental cleaner daily.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit sugary or carbohydrate-loaded snacks.
  • Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal on fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, interdental cleaners, oral irrigators, mouth rinses and other oral hygiene products. The ADA Seal on a product is your assurance that it has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Toothbrushes with medium or hard bristles actually can wear away tooth structure over time.
  • Replace your toothbrush at least every four months, sooner if the bristles become frayed. (Children’s toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently than adults’ because they can wear out sooner.)
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
Information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry
Last updated: April 2020