Research indicates there are associations between dental health and a variety of conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Until you have a problem, however, it can be too easy to take your dental health for granted. Caring for your mouth shouldn’t be difficult or time-consuming. Here are three easy ways to improve your dental — and your overall — health:

1. Brush and clean between your teeth daily

Everyone — children and adults — should brush their teeth twice a day, for two minutes each time. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily. You’ll want to make sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months (or sooner, if the bristles are frayed). A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth. When shopping for a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, look for products that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which have been evaluated by independent scientific experts for safety and effectiveness.

Flossing was a hot topic in the news last year, but don’t be fooled — you still need to clean between your teeth every day. Cleaning between teeth is important because your toothbrush doesn’t reach the space between your teeth. That means that plaque between teeth is not removed by brushing; flossing can be an effective way to avoid having it harden into calculus or tartar.

Flossing may also help prevent gum disease and cavities. The ADA recommends cleaning between your teeth once a day. Should you do it at night or in the morning? Before you brush your teeth or after? It doesn’t matter. Just do it, and do it every day.

2. Maintain a healthy diet

For healthy living and for healthy teeth and gums, think before you eat and drink. It’s not only what you eat but when you eat that can affect your dental health. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. Empty calorie foods — like candy, desserts and chips — have been proven to lead to tooth decay. Sugar-containing drinks are particularly harmful because sipping them causes a constant sugar bath over teeth, which promotes tooth decay. 

Sipping water is actually one of the best things you can do for your teeth, especially if it’s fluoridated. It washes away leftover food and residue that cavity-causing bacteria are looking for. It also dilutes the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. You’ll still need to brush twice a day for two minutes and clean between your teeth, but drinking water throughout the day will go a long way toward keeping your smile cavity-free.

3. Visit your dentist regularly

Regular dental visits are important because cleanings can help prevent problems from developing. In addition, your dentist can find dental health problems early on when treatment is simpler and less costly. Visiting your dentist regularly is also important because signs and symptoms of some diseases can first appear in the mouth. Your dentist can help spot these before bigger problems emerge.