Dental hygiene routine for adults

Brush like a pro & keep it fresh


To keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, it's important to have a routine of regular brushing and cleaning. If you want to maintain a healthy smile and have good oral hygiene, you should brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and have regular check-ups with your dentist. 

What are the risks associated with poor dental hygiene? 

Tooth decay

This happens when holes form in a tooth's hard outer surface (the enamel) due to a build up of plaque (a sticky coating on the teeth that harbours bacteria). If you have tooth decay you may need fillings, crowns or inlays. In severe cases, teeth may have to be removed.

Tooth erosion

Frequently consuming acidic food and drink can create an acidic environment that can attack the hard surface of the teeth. When the hard enamel is worn away (or eroded) it can lead to your teeth being more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.

Gum disease

This is caused by the build up of plaque on the teeth, which leads to irritation of the gums. There are two types of gum disease: gingivitis (which is inflammation of the gums), and periodontitis (which occurs if gingivitis gets worse). Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults and is often the cause of bad breath.

Bad breath

An unpleasant smell caused by the build-up of bacteria in the mouth.

While poor oral hygiene is mostly associated with problems in the mouth, it can cause issues elsewhere. 

Research has linked the inflammation caused by gum disease with an increased risk of damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain. This means there could be a link between poor gum health and conditions like stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

What makes a good dental hygiene routine? 

It’s important to develop good oral hygiene habits and stick to a routine. Regular brushing and cleaning between the teeth are especially important. Ways to maintain healthy oral hygiene include: 

Tooth brushing

You should brush your teeth at least twice a day for around two minutes each time, using toothpaste that contains fluoride – this should be before going to bed and at another point earlier in the day. The head of the toothbrush should be able to reach all areas of the mouth. Make sure to carefully clean the areas where the teeth meet the gum, but avoid brushing too hard as this can damage the gum. 

Change your toothbrush every three to four months. Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes, with the ability to rapidly change the direction of rotation, can help you to remove plaque and food debris better than manual toothbrushes.

Cleaning between the teeth

Clean between your teeth once a day before brushing, but if possible, do it twice a day. This removes plaque from between the teeth. Dental floss is most commonly used to do this, but some studies suggest that interdental brushes may be even more effective than floss. The idea is to clean the sides of the teeth that can't be reached by a toothbrush and to clear debris out of the spaces between the teeth. 

To floss, cut off about 40cm of flossing tape, wind the ends around the middle finger of each hand, grab the floss between the thumbs and first finger to obtain a tight three- to four-centimetre section which you can pull back and forth between the teeth. Lightly scrape the floss against the sides of each tooth from the gum outwards. Make sure to use a clean section of floss for each tooth and avoid cutting down into the gum. You can also use an antibacterial mouthwash as well as – but not instead of – brushing and flossing. 

Avoiding damaging food and drink

Sugars and sugary foods are the most common causes of tooth decay. Germs thrive on sugars in the mouth to make acid. Consuming acidic food and drink can also be a main factor in tooth erosion. Tips for avoiding decay and erosion with food and drink include: 

  • Limiting the amount of sugary food and drink that you have 
  • Reducing the amount of acid that comes into contact with your teeth (for example, limit fizzy drinks)
  • Restricting the amount of fruit juice and smoothies you consume (as fruit is acidic and high in sugar)
  • Opting for sugar-free snacks between meals (for example, cheese, crackers, carrot sticks) 
  • Chewing sugar-free gum after meals (gum will help rub plaque from the tooth surfaces and will stimulate the flow of saliva) 
  • Not brushing your teeth within an hour of being sick (stomach acid can attack the tooth enamel and brushing may further damage it) 

What else can help maintain good oral hygiene? 

Avoiding or giving up smoking can improve your oral hygiene, as smoking can stain your teeth yellow, cause bad breath and increase your risk of gum disease. It can also cause several other serious health problems. Your pharmacist or Doctor can suggest ways to help you stop smoking. 

Limiting your alcohol intake can also help, as alcohol can contribute to the erosion of the outer surface of the teeth, causing a loss of enamel.

Certain foods and drinks like red wine, tea and coffee can all stain your teeth. 

How often should you go to the dentist? 

It's important to visit your dentist for regular check-ups. Don’t put off going for a check-up, as detecting problems earlier can make them easier to treat. If problems aren't treated, they may lead to damage that’s more difficult to mend. You should also visit your dentist if you’re experiencing any dental pain or discomfort. 

When you're pregnant, hormonal changes can put you at higher risk of gum problems.

Next steps 

  • Regularly brush and clean your teeth and gums, and avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Visit your dentist for regular check-ups or if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort