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10 Best Practices for Healthier Teeth

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Last Updated: October 5, 2020

Almost all dentists recommend twice-a-year office visits in addition to a consistent at-home care routine. But what constitutes the best practices for keeping teeth and gums in the best possible condition? Here are the 10 things most often suggested by dentists to promote healthy teeth. Following the guidelines is not difficult and can assure that you retain that smile and your teeth remain healthy for years to come.

1. Brush Properly Twice a Day

Proper brushing, according to dental experts, should be for at least two minutes morning and evening. Effective brushing includes angling the toothbrush so that bristles reach both the inside and outside surfaces of all teeth and gently massage gums at the same time.

Brush gently, using short strokes, rather than using a "heavy hand" or an overly stiff brush. Vigorous brushing can cause tooth pain, contribute to receding gums or even loosening teeth. 

2. Use Toothpaste with Fluoride

Bacteria live in the mouth, and bacteria left unchecked can cause plaque to form on the surface of teeth. Plaque can harden into tartar and is a contributing factor in dental caries, commonly known as tooth decay. Unchecked tooth decay causes major problems, including bad breath, pain, sensitivity and eventual tooth loss or gum disease. Fluoride is the one ingredient proved most effective in preventing cavities.

3. Go Easy on Whitening Products

Even though popular ads tout gleaming white teeth, the truth is that healthy teeth come in many shades. Tooth ivory naturally darkens with age, and yellowing can be accelerated by consumption of tea or coffee,  wine, smoking and certain food. Be cautious about using over-the-counter whitening products, as they can also cause harm to sensitive teeth and gums. With twice-yearly checkups and regular cleaning, your teeth should retain their pearly, healthy glow. Ask for professional advice concerning lightening and whitening.

4. Use Dental Floss

Most dental professionals advise that brushing and flossing should be the normal daily routine. As important as regular brushing may be, it cannot always reach food particles under the gumline, or remove plaque from the crevasses between teeth. If it's difficult to maneuver the floss, purchase an implement specially designed to help with those hard-to-reach places in your mouth. Then ask your dental hygienist to give you lessons, and practice, practice, practice! Once you establish a routine, stick with it -- twice a day, every day!

5. Respect Your Teeth: Use Them Properly

Teeth were made for chewing food. They are not designed for other purposes and should never be used as a pair of pliers to twist off a bottle cap or to crack nuts or bite anything that you can't swallow. Always use a face or mouth guard if you engage in active sports or activities that might lead to facial injury. Your dentist can offer advice regarding the best type of protection.

Instill proper habits with young children, well before permanent teeth appear. In case of injury or an accident that dislodges a tooth, try to keep the damaged tooth in place if possible, or save it in a container of milk and contact a dentist immediately. A knocked-out tooth can sometimes be effectively reinstalled in the mouth.

6. Drink Lots of Water

Water is good for the body for a wide variety of reasons. It is also beneficial for teeth. If it's impossible to brush following a rich meal, a sweet snack or your morning coffee, sip some water. It will not only help to cleanse tooth surfaces and dislodge food particles; it can also sweeten your breath, wash away bacteria, remove stain-causing substances and lessen the effects of sugar and acid on your teeth. 

7. Pay Attention to Nutrition

Avoid excess starch, sugar and acidic liquids, particularly between meals. As mentioned previously, if it's not possible to brush or floss within a reasonable period of time, drink a glass of water. Reach for an apple or a crunchy vegetable like celery or carrot sticks rather than a candy bar or a bag of chips. Remember that oral health is tied to overall wellness.

8. Remember Your Tongue and Gums

Whether you choose a manual toothbrush, an electric model, a water-spray brush or a combination, it's important to remember that bacteria can also form on your tongue and gums, on the roof of your mouth and around salivary glands. Gently massage the entire surface of your mouth as you brush; you'll be surprised at what a difference it makes.

9. Try Rinsing with Mouthwash

Mouthwash can be your friend! Rinse or gargle with mouthwash following a business lunch, after takeout with your friends or anytime you're in a hurry and want to make sure your breath won't offend. Gargle routinely after eating to dislodge food particles and end your daily brushing and flossing routine with a mouthwash rinse.

10. Schedule Professional Cleaning and Regular Checkups

Finally, there is no substitute for professional cleaning and regular dental checkups. With a minimum of effort and regular care, your teeth should last for a lifetime.