Ask anyone what they remember about their grandma, and chances are you’ll hear about dentures floating in a glass of water on her bedside table. Thankfully times have changed, and while aging might still mean wrinkles and graying hair, it no longer has to mean decaying teeth and tooth loss.
Let’s face it, you need your teeth, and while good oral care isn’t exactly rocket science, it does require following a routine that includes daily brushing, as well as regular visits to your dentist. But what else can you do to keep those pearly whites healthy and strong? When it comes to healthy teeth and gums, the old adage, “Prevention is better than cure,” couldn’t be truer.
Take a look at our top 11 easy-to-follow tips for healthy teeth and gums. And if you’re not following them already, start.
1. FLOSS LIKE A BOSS
Yes, brushing your teeth twice a day is important, but did you know that flossing regularly is as important—if not more so? No matter how often you brush, there are surfaces on your teeth that your toothbrush just can’t possibly reach. That’s why flossing twice a day is essential to remove food particles in between your teeth and get rid of any cavity-causing bacteria.
2. USE THE RIGHT TOOTHBRUSH
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a toothbrush with hard bristles is the most effective way to keep your teeth clean. Using the wrong toothbrush will destroy the enamel, resulting in sensitive teeth and damaged gums. Ask your dentist to recommend a soft-bristled brush.
3. BRUSH THE RIGHT WAY
Just like using the wrong toothbrush can damage your teeth and gums, so too can brushing the wrong way. Don’t brush your teeth vertically or horizontally, as this will also wear down your teeth’s protective enamel. Brush in gentle circles, going over every surface twice. Make sure you get the back of your teeth as well as the front. It’s best to ask your dentist or oral hygienist to show you the best way to brush your teeth so you’re not missing anything.
4. DON’T BRUSH TOO MUCH
Your teeth need tender loving care, which means not scrubbing them too hard or too much. You don’t need to frantically brush your teeth to get them clean. In fact, the bacteria and plaque that collect daily are actually relatively easy to brush off. A much more effective way to clean your teeth is to gently brush them once in the morning and once before you go to bed. And if you aren’t sure about how much pressure to apply, it’s always a good idea to ask your dentist or oral hygienist for advice.
5. OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
You have the right toothbrush, and you’re using it the right way. But how often should you replace it? The magic number is usually every two-to-three months. While it might seem like a good idea to hang onto your favorite brush, the bristles wear down over time and become less effective. They might even start harboring harmful bacteria! So replace your toothbrush regularly, and get a new one or change the head especially after you’ve had a cold or the flu.
6. MIND YOUR TOOTHPASTE
But it’s just toothpaste, right? Wrong. Not all toothpastes meet the manufacturing regulations, which is why you should look for a brand that has the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. Not only will it deliver on its promise to clean your teeth effectively, but it will also have the correct dosage of fluoride that’s safe for children and adults.
7. KEEP IT CLEAN
And this time, we mean your diet. Never underestimate the importance of a good diet when it comes to healthy teeth. Too much sugar is a definite no-no, so cut down on treats, sweets, and snacks with high sugar content. Also, reduce your consumption of processed foods and anything with too much acid—even traditionally “healthy” foods, like citrus fruits. If you must snack, then choose fibrous foods such as carrots, apples, and celery; they can help clean your teeth in between the times you brush.
8. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID—AT ALL COSTS!
There are some things that just aren’t good for you or your teeth. We don’t need to tell you that smoking cigars and cigarettes will discolor your teeth, leave your breath smelling bad, and lead to serious health issues down the line.
9. MINIMIZE TEETH-STAINING DRINKS
You should also avoid drinking too much red wine, coffee, and black tea. These will quickly discolor your teeth. If you can’t avoid these beverages, it’s a good idea to brush your teeth once a week with baking soda. You can also speak to your dentist about having your teeth whitened.
10. DON’T USE YOUR TEETH FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT CHEWING
As tempting as it may be, don’t use your gnashers to tear off clothing tags, rip open packets, or open a bottle. These are bad habits that will weaken and damage your teeth and gums in the long run.
11. VISIT YOUR DENTIST REGULARLY
An apple a day will keep the doctor away—and visiting your dentist every six months will keep the tooth decay at bay. Make sure you see your dentist twice a year for routine check-ups and cleaning, and don’t put off appointments if you have a toothache, lose a filling, or break a tooth!
You have only one set of teeth, and the best way to keep them healthy and happy is by giving them the care they deserve.