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How to Brush & Floss Your Teeth (and Other Things You Probably Thought You Knew but Didn't)


Most of us don't think twice about brushing and flossing our teeth, cutting our nails, washing our hands or any of the other countless routines of hygiene we go through on a daily basis.

how to floss your teeth

There's more to brushing your teeth than you might think.

And considering the number of times we do these routines in the course of a lifetime, we should all be experts.

Yet, most of us are not.

And as a result, you may be slicing years off the lifespan of your teeth, or allowing germs to linger on your fingertips. So we urge everyone to read the following hygiene tips from the experts -- even if you think you already know how to do them.

How to Brush Your Teeth

For the most effective brushing, the American Dental Association recommends:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day, with a soft-bristled brush and a small amount of toothpaste.

  • Placing your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums

  • Using a gentle touch -- not vigorous scrubbing -- to remove plaque from your teeth and gums (scrubbing too hard, or for too long, can damage your teeth)

  • Moving the brush back and forth in short, tooth-wide strokes

  • Cleaning all surfaces of your teeth, including the inner tongue side, chewing surfaces, inside of your front teeth, and your tongue (including the back of your tongue)

Each tooth-brushing session should take about two minutes.

How to Floss Your Teeth

Here are the expert tips from the American Dental Association:

  • Floss once a day to remove plaque from between the teeth, where your toothbrush can't reach

  • Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around your middle finger

  • Wind the remaining floss around the same finger on your other hand

  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefingers, with about an inch between them, leaving no slack

  • Gently slide the floss between your teeth

  • Do not jerk or snap floss into your gums

  • When the floss reaches your gum line, move it in a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance

  • Hold the floss against the tooth and gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum

  • Repeat this method on all of your teeth

  • Make sure you floss the back side of your last tooth

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How to Wash Your Hands

Hand washing is one of the simplest ways to avoid getting sick, that is, if you do it correctly. Here's the right way to wash your hands, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Wet your hands with warm, running water and apply liquid soap or a clean bar soap. Lather well.

  • Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 15 to 20 seconds.

  • Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.

  • Rinse well.

  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.

  • Use a towel to turn off the faucet, especially if you're in a public place.

How to Cut Your Nails

These tips will keep your nails well manicured:

  • Make sure your nails are clean and dry, as cutting wet nails can leave them ragged. The exception is if your toenails are brittle or tough. In this case, soaking them first will make them easier to cut.

  • Using either sharp manicure scissors or clippers, cut your nails straight across. Fingernails can then be trimmed with a curve to follow the quick, but toenails should be left straight to avoid ingrown toenails.

  • File or trim your fingernails into an oval or square shape, as this will help prevent them from breaking

  • File your nails in one stroke, moving in one direction only (not back and forth)

How to Wash Your Hair

Believe it or not, there is a right way:

  • Wet your hair completely with warm water (hot water can dry out your hair.

  • Be sure you life your hair in the back so the water can really soak through to your scalp (where dirt and oil collect)

  • Put a small amount of shampoo (the size of a dime to a quarter) into your palm, add a bit of water, and rub it until it lathers

how to wash your hair

When washing your hair, be sure to scrub gently using the pads of your fingers, not your nails.

  • Apply the shampoo at the crown of your head first, then down toward your neck and along your hairline. Make sure you also wash the underside of your hair in the back, against your scalp

  • Using the pads of your fingers (not your nails), gently scrub your scalp using small circular motions.

  • Rinse the shampoo out with lukewarm water for at least one minute.

Recommended Reading

The 11 Signals Your Nails are Giving You About Your Health

How to Treat Pink Eye


American Dental Association

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