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Oral hygiene gifts can make for holiday smiles

As the holidays approach, you may be searching for a gift for a child, teacher, friend or family member. Why not give something that will help them keep their teeth and gums healthy in the coming year?

For example, consider giving a child a bucket filled with a few child-sized toothbrushes and tubes of children's toothpaste. A cartoon-character towel and small bars of soap will encourage them to make that trip to the bathroom each night to care for their teeth when they wash up.

Adults, especially those who like to travel, will make good use of a gift bag filled with travel-sized tubes of toothpaste, extra toothbrushes and dental floss.

You might entice a teen to do a better job of cleaning his or her teeth in the coming year with a powered toothbrush and some plaque-disclosing tablets. Disclosing tablets, sold over the counter, are used after brushing and flossing. They produce a red stain that clings to plaque, a thin film of bacteria that forms constantly on the teeth and gums.

Plaque that is not removed regularly can harden into rough porous deposits called calculus, or tartar. Once the hardened tartar forms, it can be removed only when the teeth are cleaned in the dental office. The disclosing tablet's red stain, which is brushed away easily, is produced by harmless food coloring and indicates where plaque was not removed entirely.

Here are a few other gift-giving categories to consider:

  • Toothpastes. Toothpaste is available in pumps and tubes and as a gel or paste. You can buy toothpaste with special ingredients for controlling plaque and gingivitis, tartar or sensitivity, or for whitening teeth.
  • Toothbrushes. Manual toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed.
  • Dental floss. Dental floss helps remove plaque and debris that collect between the teeth and under the gumline. Waxed and unwaxed dental floss both are effective.
  • Interdental cleaning aids. These products include special picks or sticks to get between and around teeth. People who have trouble handling dental floss may find it easier to use interdental cleaners.

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