Do you know how to take care of your teeth?
You probably know it’s important to brush your teeth every day, but if you want to protect your pearly whites for a lifetime, there’s more to consider when it comes to your oral health routine. Here are 20 tips to help you take care of your teeth.
Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time should be the cornerstone of your daily dental routine. For best results, replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles look frayed, and be sure to use good brushing technique (see link for a video).
Whiten your teeth?
While teeth whitening has exploded into a global multibillion-dollar industry, it is not an essential component of good oral hygiene, but rather a cosmetic choice. Natural tooth colours vary from light grey to yellow and naturally darken with age. Teeth can also be stained by tobacco products and certain foods and beverages, such as citrus, wine, coffee, and tea.
Choose the right brush
Most people should choose a soft-bristled brush, as medium and hard bristles can actually damage your gums, root surface, and tooth enamel if you brush too vigorously. But whether to opt for manual or electric is mainly a matter of preference. According to WebMD, there isn’t a “significant difference between electric and manual toothbrushes in their ability to remove plaque and prevent gum disease.”
Floss your teeth
Flossing once a day should be part of your daily dental routine as it removes plaque and bacteria that you can’t reach by brushing alone. It’s actually better to floss first, and then brush your teeth. Your gums may bleed at first, if you’re not in the habit of flossing, but this should stop after a few days. If your floss tends to snag, opt for another kind—here’s a breakdown of the different types.
Get regular check-ups
Routine check-ups are important to maintain good oral hygiene. Depending on the state of your teeth, you will likely need one or two check-ups a year. Your dentist will also occasionally take dental X-rays to spot any issues that can’t be seen by a visual examination.
Eat a mouth-healthy diet
Certain foods promote healthy teeth, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. For good dental health, you should also reach for water (instead of sugary drinks) when you’re thirsty.
Use fluoride toothpaste
The effectiveness of fluoride in toothpaste has been tested and proven since 1945. And you should have no trouble finding a brand you like that includes it, as “fluoride toothpastes make up more than 95% of all toothpaste sales,” according to the Dental Health Foundation of Ireland. However, if you buy your toothpaste at a health food store, you may come across fluoride-free options. There is an unlikely possibility that fluoride increases the chances of developing cancer.
Limit your sugar intake
Sugar, in all its forms—honey, molasses, glucose, fructose—is one of the main causes of dental problems as it feeds the bacteria that cause plaque, which in turn breaks down the enamel on your teeth and leads to decay. Do your best to limit your consumption of sugary drinks, sticky candies and sweets, and starchy foods that get stuck between your teeth. Opt instead for fruits and vegetables filled with fibre and dairy products.
In fact, avoid all tobacco products as they can cause gum disease and oral cancer. As marijuana legalization becomes more common, it’s also important for people to know that smoking cannabis can damage your teeth, gums, and other soft tissues in the mouth and cause oral cancer.
Brush your tongue
After you finish brushing your teeth, you should gently brush your tongue to remove bacteria. It’s also a good way to freshen your breath.
Limit acidic foods and beverages
While sugar is often top-of-mind when it comes to cavity culprits, acidic foods and beverages can have just as negative an impact. Acid damages enamel (known as acid wear), and since enamel doesn’t grow back, it’s important to limit acidic items such as soft drinks, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, pickled products, fermented products, yogurt and some wines.
Snacking between meals can be problematic because it prolongs your mouth’s exposure to acids and less saliva is released than during mealtimes. If you must snack, opt for tooth-friendly items such as cheese, fruits, and vegetables.
Rinse with water
After you eat sweets, rinse your mouth with water. Water will dilute the sugars in your mouth so that they don’t harm your enamel.
Rinse with fluoride mouthwash
Although it’s not an absolute must, adding a fluoride mouthwash (or mouth rinse) to your oral health routine can help control plaque, limit tooth wear, and decrease cavity incidence while freshening your breath. There are fluoride-free options on the market, but they don’t help prevent tooth decay.
Wait 30 minutes before brushing
You’ve likely been told countless times to brush your teeth after you eat, but there’s a catch—it’s better to wait at least 30 minutes before you brush. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should avoid brushing your teeth right away after you eat acidic foods or beverages. Why? Because they weaken the enamel, and if you brush too soon, you’re actually brushing it away!
Carry a travel-size toothbrush
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and need your afternoon sugar fix, simply pack a travel-size toothbrush in your lunch kit and brush afterwards.
Avoid sticky sweets
It may be asking too much for you to give up sugar and dessert completely, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to cut out sticky sweets, such as toffee, caramel, and hard candy, which stick to your teeth and are tough to brush away. Sticky sweets stay in your mouth longer than other desserts, exposing your teeth to sugar for an extended period of time.
Chew sugar-free gum
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, flushing away food particles and remaining sugar, protecting your mouth against plaque-causing bacteria.
Drink, don’t sip
When it comes to oral health, it’s not just what you eat, but how long it lingers in your mouth. If you enjoy sipping your sweetened coffee or soft drink all afternoon, you’re exposing your teeth to sugars and acids for longer amounts of time. The simple solution is to drink your beverages fairly quickly instead of slowly sipping them.
Don’t over brush
It’s important to brush your teeth twice a day, but it’s equally important not to overdo it. Over brushing (or vigorous brushing) can wear down your enamel and cause your gums to recede, leading to periodontal disease. You don’t need to brush hard to remove plaque. In fact, plaque is “so soft that you could remove it with a rag if you could reach all the surfaces where it hides,” says Kevin Sheu, DDS. One more reason to choose a soft-bristled brush!