You don’t get a second chance with your adult teeth, so it is vital to take care of them. Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for two minutes at a time at least twice a day. As a rule of thumb, you should brush your teeth for almost as long as it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn.

Good dental hygiene is important for reasons other than vanity. Brushing your teeth removes plaque and keeps your teeth strong and healthy — and a clean mouth also helps keep your body healthy. Here are some tips for better oral health:

Dental Basics
After you eat, the bacteria in plaque creates a sort-of film that sticks to teeth and gums, releasing acids. These acids attack tooth enamel, which is the strong outer shell that protects your teeth. The wearing away of enamel can eventually lead to tooth decay, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) warns. Plaque will harden to tartar if it is not removed and can cause gum disease and other problems. Poor oral health has been linked to heart disease and premature birth.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day, but no more than three times a day. Too frequent brushing can damage your gums. Either brush your teeth when your first wake up or after breakfast, and then again before you go to bed. Protect your gums by staying away from brushes with bristles that are too firm.

Floss at least once a day before you brush your teeth. Fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse can help prevent tooth decay, and you may also be exposed to small amounts of fluoride in your drinking water. Mouth wash cannot and should not be used as a replacement for brushing your teeth.

According to the ADHA, you should use a toothbrush that has soft, nylon round-ended bristles. Make sure your brush and toothpaste have the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.

Brushing your teeth
Angle your toothbrush 45 degrees and position it so the bristles touch both your teeth and the gumline. Use small, vertical strokes to clean two or three teeth at a time. Then move on to the next few teeth, the ADHA advises.

It may be helpful to start with the top molars on the left side of your mouth and work clockwise. If you find yourself becoming bored with your this pattern, switch it up so other teeth get to benefit you’re your beginning efforts. Repeat for the bottom teeth. Make sure you brush the inner surfaces of your teeth as well as the outer and the biting surface of all teeth, not just your molars. Don’t brush too hard.

You can use an electric toothbrush if you want, but it might not be necessary if you are brushing your teeth correctly. Ask your dentist if he or she thinks an electric toothbrush would benefit your dental hygiene.

Take care of your toothbrush
Your toothbrush can become a breeding ground for germs if not cared for properly. Store the brush upright with its bristles away from any other brushes. You should replace your toothbrush every three months, or when the bristles start to fray. It is important to change your brush after you have been sick or had any kind of mouth infection to protect yourself from germs. According to the ADHA, three out of four patients do not switch their toothbrushes as often as they should.

In addition, eat a healthy, balanced diet and visit your dentist once or twice a year to protect your teeth and overall health.