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A Healthy Mouth is a Happy Mouth!

When you have a healthy mouth, you will feel good about your mouth and about yourself! Read the article to learn more about the steps you can take to have a healthy, happy mouth. Print the full article here!

Para ver en español, haga clic aquí. Upang tingnan sa tagalog, mag-click dito

A healthy mouth:

  • Feels good!
  • Tastes good!
  • Smells good!
  • Looks good! 

When you have an unhealthy mouth, you may have:

  • Bad breath
  • Teeth that hurt 
  • A hard time chewing
  • A bad taste in your mouth 
  • Gums that hurt, are red, or bleed
  • Broken, loose, or dark-colored teeth 

    An unhealthy mouth usually has something called plaque (said like “plak”). Plaque sticks to your teeth. It is made up of germs that stay on and between your teeth and gums. You usually cannot see it, but it is bad for teeth and gums. The longer plaque stays on your teeth, the more harm it can do.

    You need to keep your teeth and gums clean and free of plaque. If your teeth are dirty and have plaque, you will get an unhealthy mouth.

    To have a healthy mouth, follow these three steps: 

    1. Brush your teeth two times a day.
    2. Floss your teeth one time a day.
    3. See your dentist at least one time a year.
    1. Brush your teeth two times a day.

    Regular tooth brushing helps keep your mouth clean and free of plaque.  To brush your teeth, you will need:

    • A soft toothbrush. You should get a new tooth brush every three months.
    • Toothpaste with fluoride to help make your teeth stronger.

    Brush your teeth two times a day. Brush your teeth in the morning after breakfast and again before you go to bed.

    When brushing your teeth:

    • Wash your hands with soap and water.
    • Wet the toothbrush.
    • Use a pea-size amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush.
    • Start with the toothbrush at the gum line.
    • Move the toothbrush in circles on each tooth.
    • Brush the outside, inside, and top of each tooth.
    • Brush your teeth for 2 minutes.
    • After you finish, rinse your mouth with water.

    Even if you have a few or no teeth, brush your gums to keep your mouth healthy.

    2. Floss your teeth one time a day.

    Flossing helps to keep your mouth clean and free of plaque. Your toothbrush cannot reach plaque that collects between your teeth or along your gum line. You need to floss to get the plaque between your teeth. 

    To floss your teeth, you will need dental floss. Floss at least one time a day in the evening before brushing your teeth and before going to bed.

    When flossing your teeth:

    • Start with an arm length of floss (about 18 inches).
    • Wrap the ends of the floss around the middle finger of each hand.
    • Hold the floss tight with your thumbs.
    • Gently slide the floss between your teeth until the floss reaches the gum line.
    • Move the floss up-and-down and back-and-forth.
    • If the floss gets shredded, use a new piece.
    • To get the floss out, pull it up and away from the teeth.

    Other things to know about flossing:

    • Try different kinds of floss or flossing aids to see what you like best.
    • Flossing is not easy. It takes lots of practice.  

    Remember to wash your hands before and after cleaning your teeth.

    3. See your dentist at least one time a year.

    See a dentist at least one time a year. Your dentist will check your gums and teeth. The dentist will ask if you have pain in your mouth. The dentist might take pictures (x-rays) of your teeth. The dentist will fix your teeth if something is wrong. The dentist may not finish fixing your teeth on the first visit and you may have to go again.

    A dental hygienist (hi-gen-ist) will clean your teeth. This will help get rid of plaque and germs that cause cavities. The dental hygienist will show you the best way to brush and floss.

    If you feel pain in a tooth, call to see the dentist. If you wait too long, the pain will get worse.

    Watch this "Why Brush and Floss" video to learn why it is important to brush your teeth.

    How to help:
    Eat a healthy diet.

    Sugary snacks or drinks are bad for your health. They are also bad for your teeth and gums. Sugar makes plaque and germs that stay on your teeth. Here are some tips for a healthy diet:

    • Stay away from candy and soda pop.
    • Eat snacks like nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Drink milk, water, tea, and other sugar-free drinks.
    • If you have a sugary snack, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out with water. 
      Have a dental care support plan.

      Individuals should have a dental care plan with steps necessary to keep a healthy mouth. The plan should include:

      • Brushing,
      • Flossing,
      • Getting annual or as needed dental care, and
      • Eating a healthy diet.

      Each individual should be assisted and supported to develop and follow a dental care plan. Recommendations from the dental team, the dentist, and dental hygienist should be included in the person’s plan.

      The person’s circle of support will need to know the individual's dental plan. Supporters need to regularly check the progress and work with the individual to help revise the plan as needed.

      Each individual will need different kinds of support to follow their plan. For example, some people may need full assistance with brushing and flossing their teeth. Other people may need some or no assistance with brushing and flossing.  Still other people will need training and information to learn how and why to brush and floss. The goal is to help the individual become as independent as possible.

      Be aware of unhealthy teeth.

      Learn about and be aware of things that put people at greater risk for unhealthy teeth and gums, such as some medications, chronic illnesses, and smoking. The dentist or the person’s primary care physician can help to identify these risks. They can also tell you what to do to protect teeth and gums.

      • Assist the individual to see their dentist at least one time a year.
      • Make a healthy mouth part of regular discussions about overall health.
      • Be aware of changes in the person’s mouth, those you see and those you hear about.
      • Support the individual to see a dentist, if needed, between yearly visits.
      Use these helpful tips.

      Here are some helpful tips for when the individual requires more support or full assistance:

      • Make brushing and flossing a happy experience. 
      • Create an environment that works for the individual and you.
      • Be consistent and keep to a routine.
      • Explain any changes so the individual knows what to expect.
      • Encourage the individual to participate.
      • Give the person as much control as possible to build trust, dignity, and respect.
      • Look for changes as you are brushing and flossing.
      • Find out what equipment or adaptations may be helpful.
      • When helping, make sure to wash your hands and wear gloves.
      • Store brushing and flossing supplies properly after each use.

      Be positive and be persistent. You CAN be successful in helping individuals have a healthy, happy mouth!

      Get dental services.

      California Medi-Cal dental services are called Denti-Cal [1]. If the person you support is receiving regional center services and has a Medi-Cal Benefits ID Card, they are eligible for Denti-Cal. Denti-Cal services include an annual dental check-up, x-rays, and teeth cleaning. Denti-Cal also includes services the dentist needs to fix teeth and gums.

      If someone you support does not have a dentist:

      • Go to the Denti-Cal website at and search for a local dentist.
      • Call the Denti-Cal Beneficiary Services Line at 800-322-6384. Ask for a referral to a local dentist.
      • Talk to your regional center service coordinator about local dentists. Many regional centers have a Dental Coordinator who can help you locate a dentist.

      To get more information, go to: and search the words: teeth, dentist, oral health, brushing, or flossing to learn more about the dental team and the best way to brush and floss teeth. for a detailed discussion about dental health and provision of assistance to individuals with special needs. This information will help supporters build knowledge, confidence and ability. for a guide to everyday dental care.

      [1] Reference: Denti-Cal Bulletin, June 2012, Volume 28/Number 9, Effective January 13, 2012 


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      Last updated on Fri, 03/07/2014 - 13:20