How to Maintain a Healthy Smile
It’s easy to take your natural smile for granted—that is until something happens that compromises it. Be it severe decay, the development of gum disease, or requiring a replacement tooth, these things, in addition to being costly to fix, can take a toll on your self-confidence.
An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Preventative dental care is the best thing you can do to preserve your smile and bank balance. And the best part is that most of it only takes small, simple actions that can be done each day. The more consistently you act on these habits, the more ingrained into your day-to-day routine they will become until they are second nature.
Here are our best prevention tips to help you maintain a beautiful, natural healthy smile.
Choose the Right “Tools”
A proper prevention routine starts with the right tools to get the job done. Whether you choose a rechargeable electric toothbrush or a manual one, the head should have soft bristles. A soft bristle toothbrush effectively cleans the surface of your teeth without damaging the enamel layer. Manual toothbrushes and toothbrush head attachments should both be replaced every three months. As the bristles become worn out from use, they become less efficient at cleaning.
When choosing a toothpaste, be sure to select one that contains fluoride. Fluoride is crucial in maintaining strong healthy teeth. Enamel is made up of minerals and will pull in fluoride, which is also a mineral, from toothpaste, integrating it into its structure. Fluoride also helps to further fortify and strengthen enamel as it is better able to withstand the effects of decay than the other minerals that make up this layer of the teeth.
Develop Proper Brushing Habits
You should be brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes and ideally not for 30 minutes after eating. The acids found in the foods we consume, like sodas and citrus fruits, soften the enamel layer making it more susceptible to damage—even from brushing. A 30-minute period should give the enamel adequate time to re-harden after being exposed to acids.
Proper technique when brushing is important to sufficiently clean your teeth without causing undue damage in the process. When using a manual toothbrush, brush in gentle circular motions with bristles pointed at a 45-degree angle from the gumline. If using an electric brush, gently guide the brush along each tooth allowing it to spend a few seconds on each tooth—moving this brush across the teeth as you would a manual toothbrush is unnecessary and can lead to what we call “double brushing.”
Whichever brush type you choose, be sure to get the front, back, and tops of each tooth. This typically takes two to three minutes. Gently brush along the tongue as well to remove any plaque or food debris that may be there, and follow by rinsing with water.
Most people have the habit of brushing their teeth in the morning well ingrained into their routine. There aren’t very many of us comfortable walking around with morning breath! But brushing at night is just as important a habit to develop.
When we are asleep saliva production is at its lowest. And as gross as saliva is, it has a very important role in maintaining our oral health. It helps to protect teeth from plaque and bacteria that build up on their surface throughout the day. Limited saliva production and a day’s worth of buildup on our teeth creates the perfect environment for plaque to harden into tartar, acids to weaken enamel, and gums to become irritated or even infected.
Floss Once a Day
Flossing is one of the most neglected dental habits. In fact, just 30% of Americans floss daily.
Flossing is so important because it gets in between the teeth and around the gumline in places that your toothbrush simply can’t reach. If not removed, the debris and plaque here can harden into tartar, leading to decay and even gum disease.
You should be flossing once a day as a part of your daily preventative dental routine.
It’s best to use string floss as it can most easily contour to the shape of your teeth. When flossing, unwind an 18-inch strand and wrap it around your index fingers leaving about an inch of string between. Gently move this length of string between the teeth in a C-shape around each tooth. As the working section of floss becomes frayed and picks up particles, wind it around your fingers to access a new, clean section of the string.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drink lots of water to keep your body sufficiently hydrated and in turn maintain effective saliva production. Chronic dry mouth makes individuals more susceptible to decay and gum disease.
Drinking fluoridated water also helps maintain strong, healthy teeth. Most public water supplies fluoridate their water, so drink up!
Limit your intake of sugary and acidic beverages. Both contribute to the plaque layer that builds up throughout the day as well as the breakdown of the enamel layer—softening it and leeching it of the minerals that maintain its strength. Swishing water around your mouth after meals helps to remove food particles and bacteria from your teeth until it’s time to brush.
Eat a Healthy Diet
There are links between oral health and health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s. We aren’t asking you to cut out red meat, bacon or desserts forever, but maintaining an overall healthy diet will help keep you from being at risk of chronic disease.
If that’s not reason enough, the bacteria in plaque consume the sugars in simple carbs like breads and sweets. As they take in these sugars they produce acids that damage your enamel. It’s best to limit your consumption of these items, swish with water after eating, and thoroughly clean your teeth later that day by brushing and flossing.
Visit the Dentist Regularly
Even those who are rigid about following the above tips should visit the dentist at least twice a year. Waiting until you believe something is wrong before you visit the dentist is far too late.
During your routine visits, your dentist will be able to catch any dental health issues while they are still minor and have not caused severe damage. They will provide feedback as to the effectiveness of your home dental care and give advice on how to further improve your routine to continue efficient, at-home prevention care.
Regular cleanings are critical as this is when the dental team will remove any tartar, the hardened form of plaque, from your teeth. Tartar can only be removed by professionals in the office and if left on the teeth it will lead to decay and gum disease.