Healthy, well-maintained gums provide the foundation for strong adult teeth. Of course, taking care of your gums does more than just maintain stability for your teeth. Good dental care also helps prevent gum disease, which can cause oral health issues and can aggravate heart problems. No matter your age, you can take simple steps every day to improve the health of your gums and teeth. Start with these five essentials; then, ask your dentist what other steps you can take to protect your gums.

1. Stay On Top of Brushing and Flossing

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day after meals and flossing once a day. If you can, try brushing your teeth three times a day. Health officials in many countries suggest brushing your teeth before breakfast and about an hour after each meal. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after you eat, especially if you’ve had acidic foods. You can floss at any time of the day; choose the same time every day to make flossing a habit.

2. Avoid Mouthwash with Alcohol

Many over-the-counter mouthwashes contain an enormous amount of alcohol. Avoid using these rinses as they can dry out the mouth and gums, leading to discomfort and encouraging the growth of bacteria. Opt for all-natural or alcohol-free mouthwashes instead and use them at least twice a day.

3. Eat A Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet

The American Dental Association and other medical groups have launched educational campaigns to explain that eating well can improve oral health. Choose plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid eating too many sweets as they can damage teeth and encourage the growth of bacteria.

4. Keep Your Tongue Clean

Your tongue is a great breeding ground for bacteria. To boost overall oral health, scrape your tongue twice every day with a tongue scraper. A specialized scraper will remove more bacteria than a regular toothbrush.

5. Stay Well-Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water helps your mouth and gums stay hydrated, which in turn helps control bacteria. If you’re in an office environment all day, try to drink one glass of water every hour. If you’re active, you’ll need to drink extra water to protect your gums and stay hydrated.

Remember that choosing a dentist in your area for regular checkups and cleanings is the cornerstone of good oral health. Your dentist can complete yearly oral health screenings and alert you to any early signs of gum disease. Starting a gum care regimen today is a great way to improve oral health and offset any early indicators of disease.