When it comes to the health of our teeth and gums, most people feel like they’re doing well if they find time to brush twice a day. But considering the areas that brushing can miss (between teeth and below the gumline), not to mention the massive amounts of sugar, acid, and chemical preservatives common to the modern diet, it’s no wonder that so many people end up dealing with dental problems, including staining and discoloration, cavities, gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. What’s really sad is that all of this is 100% preventable in most cases, and the onus is on each and every one of us to take steps to keep tooth decay at bay. When it comes to your oral health, ignorance is not bliss, so here are just a few proven ways to keep your mouth clean.

1.  Proper daily regimen. If you want the best chances to prevent oral health issues, you need to adopt a daily routine of proper dental care. This means brushing, flossing, and rinsing after meals, or at least twice a day. And you need to perform these essential tasks the right way. For example, you should use a soft-bristle toothbrush and clean in a gentle, circular motion rather than scrubbing back and forth. In addition, you should ask your dentist for a lesson in flossing to ensure that you’re not irritating the sensitive tissue of your gums in the process. And rinsing with Listerine will help to kill any remaining bacteria lingering in your mouth.

2.  Cut back on sugar and starch. We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth. It not only clings to surfaces in your mouth, but it attracts bacteria, helping to build colonies that promote plaque and tartar buildup, eventually leading to tooth decay. What you might not know is that starch converts to sugar and it can cause the same issues. You should also steer clear of foods high in acid since it can eat away at enamel, exposing your teeth to further harm.

3.  Add dairy to your diet. Calcium helps to build strong bones, so it should come as no surprise that it can help to protect your teeth. But for the cheese lovers out there, the news is even better. Studies have shown that cheese not only provides your teeth with health-boosting calcium, but it also acts to counter the effects of acids in the mouth, balancing the pH levels and protect your enamel.

4.  Rinse frequently. As busy adults we don’t always have time to brush after a meal. But you can still rinse your mouth throughout the day, washing away stray food particles and bacteria, by keeping water handy. Your saliva can do a lot to rinse your mouth naturally, but at some point you’re going to need a little help. Having water at the ready not only hydrates your body, delivering all kinds of health benefits, but it can also keep your mouth clean and promote better oral health in the process.

5.  See the dentist. There’s only so much you can do on your own and then you need to turn your oral health over to the dentist. You may be able to go years without tooth decay thanks to proper oral hygiene practices, but at some point you’re going to need a cleaning and check-up to get at areas that you simply can’t reach on your own. You should schedule annual appointments at Smile Effects or your local dental office at a minimum; biannual are recommended.