Oral Health Frequently Asked Questions

How do I brush my teeth? How long should I brush?


You should brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Choose a soft-bristled brush that fits your mouth and place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Gently move the brush back and forth in short, tooth-wide strokes. Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

Do I really need to floss every day?


Yes! Flossing is an essential part of any oral health care routine.

The Vermont State Dental Society and the American Dental Association both recommend flossing at least once a day to achieve optimal oral health.

By flossing daily, you help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where the toothbrush can't reach. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can harden into calculus or tartar. Flossing also helps prevent gum disease and cavities.

How often do I have to go to the dentist?

Some people need to visit the dentist once or twice a year; others may need more visits. There is no one-size-fits-all dental treatment schedule. You are a unique person, with a unique smile and unique needs when it comes to keeping your smile healthy. Talk to your dentist about how often you need to schedule visits. 

How do I find a dentist?

Visit our Find-a-Dentist feature to search for dentists in your area. You can also ask family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or your physician for recommendations. If you're moving, your current dentist may be able to refer you to a colleague.

How are Vermont’s dentists working to increase access to care?

Now, more than ever, Vermont’s community dentists are committed to expanding our system of care to ensure Vermonters are receiving the oral health services they need, when they need them and at a cost they can afford.  That’s why dentists all across the state are leading advocates for the Vermont Action for Dental Health plan – a comprehensive, multi-pronged strategy to achieve Vermont’s dental health care goals and provide the peace of mind that comes with receiving care from a fully licensed doctor of dental medicine.   Learn more at VTActionforDentalHealth.org

Where can I get routine care if I do not have health insurance?

Vermonters who do not have dental health insurance can pay out of pocket or pursue care at a price that is based on their income at eight Federally Qualified Health Centers and five non-profit dental clinics spread throughout Vermont.  In addition, Vermont’s community dentists donate many hours of pro bono dental care in communities each year.

What should I look for when choosing a dentist?

You may want to call or visit more than one dentist before making your decision. Dental care is a personalized service that requires a good relationship between the dentist and the patient. During your first visit, you should be able to determine if this is the right dentist for you. 

Should I go to the dentist when I’m pregnant?

Yes. It is safe and important to see a dentist when you are pregnant. Make sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant and about any changes you have noticed in your oral health. In some cases, pregnancy can make some dental problems worse. Brushing and flossing contributes to your overall health, too, and if your mouth is healthy, it’s more likely that your baby’s mouth will be healthy. Good daily care is vital. That means always brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

What happens if I knock out a tooth?

For a knocked-out permanent or adult tooth, keep it moist at all times. If you can, try placing the tooth back in the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place it in between your cheek and gums or in milk and get to a dentist’s office right away.

How do I treat a toothache?

Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Brush and gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between your teeth. Do not put aspirin on your aching tooth or gums because it may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.

Why do I need fluoride?

Fluoride helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause them. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, you are preventing cavities and strengthening the enamel that protects your teeth.

Should my children have fluoride?

Children and adults should use fluoride toothpaste displaying the ADA Seal of Acceptance. For children younger than 3 years, you should begin brushing your children’s teeth as soon as they start to appear in the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. You should be brushing their teeth thoroughly twice a day (morning and night) or as directed by your dentist or physician. For children 3 to 6 years of age, dispense no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and brush teeth thoroughly twice per day. Always supervise your child’s brushing to ensure that they use the appropriate amount of toothpaste and try and get your child to spit out most of the toothpaste.

Are dental X-rays safe?

Dental X-ray exams are safe; however, like all x-rays they do require very low levels of radiation. Dental X-ray tools and techniques are designed to limit the body's exposure to radiation and every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is As Low As Reasonably Achievable (the ALARA principle). For example, a leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and used when it will not interfere with acquisition of the dental radiograph. Also, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should also be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children.