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Take the Smart-mouth Quiz
1. How often should you brush your teeth?

a) once a week, or when you start to see a greenish tinge

b) after every meal or at least once a day

c) twice a day

d) whenever things feel fuzzy


b) After every meal is best and always before bed.

2. How soon after eating should you brush?

a) right away. If possible, eat your meals in the bathroom so you’re already near the sink. b) within a few minutes

c) about an hour later

d) it doesn’t make any difference


c) About an hour later. Surprisingly, it’s best not to brush right away! Your mouth is at its most acidic at mealtimes (because of sugars and other substances mixing with bacteria). If you brush right then, you’ll spread that acid around and may damage your tooth enamel. An hour later, things will be calmer in your mouth. Phew — time to brush safely.

3. Ideally how long should you to brush?

a) 20 seconds

b) two to three minutes

c) one minute to brush your teeth and one minute to brush your tongue

d) long enough to sing O Canada quickly in your head


b) If you’re rushed and don’t have two to three minutes to brush, a minute will do the trick once you have flossed, says Dr. John Steeves, a dentist in Fredericton. “If you can get a sustained 60 seconds of brushing, that should give you adequate time to reach all accessible surfaces. As well, it gives you 60 seconds exposure to the fluoride in the toothpaste.”

Dr. Steeves recommends using a timer. “It is a great motivator for kids and adults,” he notes.

4. Flossing is only for grown-ups. True or False?


False. As in, no such luck. Once your teeth are close enough together (as early as age three) you need to floss once a day. Without flossing, more than a third of your tooth surface doesn’t get cleaned.

5. How should healthy gums look?

a) shiny and swollen

b) pale and waxy

c) bright red from bleeding

d) none of the above


d) none of the above Healthy gums don’t bleed when you brush or floss, they look dull instead of shiny, and are pink (perhaps a dark pink, nearly red, if your skin is dark). Healthy gums are important. They hold your teeth in!

6. What is calculus?

a) a high school math class many kids fear

b) what your body needs for healthy bones

c) another word for what happens when plaque (a sticky substance) hardens into tartar on your teeth or under your gumline

d) something guitar players get on their fingertips


c). Another term for what happens when plaque hardens into tartar.

Tartar harbours more bacteria than plaque, and is worse for your teeth and gums. Brushing, flossing, eating well, and visiting your dentist — all these things can help.

7. Why is toffee an especially bad snack?

a) because it’s sticky

b) it has more sugar than other candy

c) it can leave dark stains on your teeth

d) all of the above


a) Because it’s sticky. As in, it sticks around in your teeth and causes trouble. No sweets, even fruit gummies, are good choices for snacks. Instead, go for nuts and seeds, peanut butter, cheese, plain yogurt, or popcorn.

8. A dessert with your evening meal is better than the same dessert as an after-school snack. True or False?


True, because of how sugar does its damage. The explanation is sort of graphic, but we’ll spit it out (pun intended!). The sugars you eat mix with bacteria in your mouth to make an acid that can cause cavities. During meals your mouth makes more saliva, and this helps in two ways: it rinses food particles away and dilutes the cavity-causing acid.

9. How often do you need a new toothbrush?

a) every month

b) anytime your dog has been chewing on it

c) every two to three months

d) at least once before you graduate from high school


c) Every two to three months or when the bristles are starting to fray. Old toothbrushes don’t do their job well and can harbour bacteria that can `lead to cavities. Also, don’t share your toothbrush with anyone (of any species). Don’t even let its bristles touch another toothbrush’s bristles!

And what type of toothbrush should you use? Soft is best, says Dr. Steeves. “It’s the motion of the bristles and using the proper technique combined with the cleaning action of the toothpaste that cleans the tooth surface.”

Dr. Steeves is also a big fan of electric brushes. “These brushes don’t always come in soft, so I stress the need to be gentle when using them with patients,” he notes.

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