Current mechanical and chemotherapeutic approaches to oral hygiene aim to modify the oral microflora to promote healthy periodontal and dental tissues. Current oral hygiene measures, appropriately used and in conjunction with regular professional care, are capable of virtually preventing caries and most periodontal disease and maintaining oral health. Toothbrushing and flossing are most commonly used, although interdental brushes and wooden sticks can offer advantages in periodontally involved dentitions. Chewing sugar-free gums as a salivary stimulant is a promising caries-preventive measure. Despite new products and design modifications, mechanical measures require manual dexterity and cognitive ability. Chemotherapeutic supplementation of mechanical measures using dentifrices, mouthrinses, gels and chewing gums as delivery vehicles can improve oral hygiene. The list includes anticalculus, antibacterial and cariostatic agents. For the population at large to make effective use of these oral hygiene measures, oral hygiene promotion needs to be implemented. Considerations include the role of parents, school and the media for children and the workplace, social environments. nursing homes and trained carers for adults and the elderly. Community oral hygiene promotion must attempt to maximise opportunities for oral health for all and reduce inequalities by removing financial and other barriers. Oral health approaches should be tailored to lifestyles and abilities of children, adults and the elderly in order to enable them to make decisions to improve personal oral hygiene and oral health.