An Asian woman brushing her teeth while holding a glass of water.

There's no overstating the importance of oral health and its impact on your quality of life. Everyone knows that keeping up with your leads to cavity-free teeth, fresh breath, and a bright, . But it can also lower your risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, and complicated pregnancies, among .

So, if your dental habits have fallen by the wayside, it's time to make them your top priority again. Wondering how to remove bad breath? Are your toothbrush bristles looking worse for wear? Is your dental floss M.I.A.? Have you forgotten your dentist's name? All signs point to your oral care routine needing an upgrade. Start here.

1. Get a New Toothbrush

Dental health experts recommend switching to a new manual toothbrush or electric brush head every three to four months. Since bristles naturally wear out, lose stiffness, and fray over time, they become less effective at cleaning your teeth. If your trusty toothbrush looks tattered, smells funky (yikes!), and stays damp for hours after use, it's time to swap it out.

Should you go manual or electric?

You can never go wrong with a simple but high-quality manual toothbrush. It's affordable, accessible, and easy to pack – perfect for brushing on the go. But if you want to level it up, an electric toothbrush is the way. It's a little pricier but requires less technique to use. You're less likely to overbrush or miss hard-to-reach spots. 

Choose soft bristles.

Whichever one you pick, make sure it has a soft-bristled brush. Dentists recommend soft over medium-to-hard bristles because they're much gentler on your gum line. Since they're not so densely packed, you can use them to scrub away build-up on teeth without irritating the gums or damaging your enamel.

2. Find a Toothpaste You Like

Despite their different labels, most kinds of function the same way. They buff away dental plaque, prevent cavities and gum disease, and freshen your breath. Some use active ingredients like peroxide (for whitening), antibacterial zinc (for bacteria breath removal), and potassium nitrate (for sensitivity) to target more specific teeth problems. Need to narrow down your options? Keep an eye out for these qualities.

Look for toothpaste with high fluoride content.

You want a toothpaste with at least 1,000 ppm (parts per million) fluoride: an essential, teeth-strengthening mineral that prevents dental caries. You can also drink fortified water and gargle with fluoride-infused mouthwash.

Of course, it must be smooth and refreshing.

Your toothpaste should have a smooth, homogenous texture. It should be minimally gritty – but not too rough! – for effective cleaning. For flavor, go with whatever tastes best and feels most refreshing. Anything minty is a safe choice. On the other hand, fruity or spicy formulas make brushing more fun.

closeup Red Hot Toothpaste ticks all the boxes – plus it provides All day fresh breath with antibacterial zinc that fights up to 99.9% of bacteria. 

3. Explore Other Oral Health Products

With the basics covered, you can expand your dental ritual to include more specialized care tools. Doing this can increase your protection from cavities and may keep your breath fresh longer.

Add flossing to your routine.

Is flossing a part of your routine yet? It’s an integral part of good oral hygiene. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing at least once daily to dislodge the stubborn gunk trapped between teeth. If you're still getting the hang of it, start with standard dental floss. They're typically made of nylon or plastic and come in waxed or unwaxed varieties. Go for the waxed stuff if you want a smoother glide.

Invest in an oral irrigator.

For more advanced flossing, invest in oral irrigators (a.k.a. water flossers or jets). They shoot steady streams of water into all the nooks and crannies of your teeth. Plaque-causing food particles and bacteria don’t stand a chance! They’re also a handy tool for people with fixed orthodontic treatment, like metal-wired braces, which can make it harder to floss.

Try a tongue scraper.

The tongue holds onto bacteria and transforms it into halitosis: the medical term for chronic bad breath. Most people already scrape their tongues when toothbrushing, but using a dedicated tool leads to even cleaner results. Some even claim it can help refine your taste buds!

4. Visit Your Dentist

When was the last time you saw your dentist? If it's been a year or two, you should drop them a line. The National Health Service (NHS) recommends routine check-ups every 12-24 months. Those with recurring dental issues like cavities, swollen gums, or falling teeth should come in more frequently.

On top of that, you'll need to undergo professional teeth cleaning (dental prophylaxis) at least once every six months for maintenance. Take your dentist appointments as opportunities to get oral care tips specific to your needs. No one knows better than a pro!

Ready to get back into your oral health groove? Start simple with a new toothbrush, fluoride-packed toothpaste, and high-tech essentials that make the process so much easier. Oh, and call your dentist!