You want to do the best you can to take care of your teeth, but sometimes it’s hard to know just what to do to keep your mouth as healthy as possible. Here we’ll discuss five common issues you may have questions about and what you can do to maintain strong, healthy teeth. Check common dental questions answered by

Is it okay to skip regular dental cleanings if I don’t have any problems?

Never skip a dentist appointment just because you don’t think you have any issues. There are many conditions you can develop, like gum disease or tooth decay, that show very few signs or symptoms until the problem becomes severe. Your dentist can often catch these sneaky issues before they start to become painful, irritating and/or expensive to treat. In addition, the cleaning you get from your oral hygienist is much more in-depth and complete than the brushing and flossing you do every day at home, so keeping up a regular schedule with your dentist will help you avoid cavities and gum disease in the long run.

Do toothbrushes with stiff bristles clean better than soft bristles?

Actually, they don’t. A softer bristle is more flexible, meaning it’s able to bend and reach the nooks and crannies in your teeth. A stiff bristle can put tiny scratches in your tooth enamel, dulling the surface over time, and stiff bristles are also more likely to hurt or irritate the soft tissues in your mouth if you accidentally jab a gum or the inside of your cheek.

How often should I replace my toothbrush?

Generally you’ll need a new toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles start to look frayed or broken. You should also pick up a new brush after an illness or cold sore; even if you take good care of your toothbrush and rinse it well after use, it can harbor bacteria that could cause you to become sick again. If you require antibiotics, your doctor can tell you how long you’ll need to take the medication before you’re no longer contagious and you can get a new brush.

Shouldn’t I brush right after eating?

Not necessarily. Brushing immediately after a meal or snack seems like a good idea, but in fact the acids in foods like berries, apples, pickles, sodas and energy drinks temporarily weaken your enamel. Waiting 20 to 30 minutes after eating gives your teeth time to stabilize and start fighting erosion-causing acid on their own- brushing too soon after a meal can damage weakened enamel, and drive acid further in to teeth.

Can I damage my teeth by biting packages open?

Most of us have done this- the scissors are missing, and you wrestle and struggle with a package or bag until you give in and tear it open with your teeth. It may seem harmless, but you can do serious damage to the structure of your teeth this way. Our mouths aren’t built for ripping and tearing, and putting this kind of pressure on them can easily crack or break a tooth. If you regularly use your teeth to tear price tags off clothing, you may find yourself with a crease or dent in a tooth after a while. The price to repair the damage you can do by using your teeth as a tool is well beyond what the convenience is worth- if you can’t find a pair of scissors, use nail clippers to slice a small slit in the side of the package.