You’re never too late to relearn the best ways to take care of your teeth, which is why, when you visit your dentist, your hygienist reviews proper tooth-brushing and flossing techniques. It’s not that much has changed with oral care; it’s that we can get lazy and form bad habits.
Good, healthy dental care isn’t just for kids, you know. Here are six ways to strengthen your grown-up teeth.
Regular Dental Visits
How often should you go to the dentist? Most healthy children and adults visit the dentist twice a year. They get X-rays annually and teeth cleanings at each visit. The ADA recommends that you go as often as your dentist recommends. Some people, they say, benefit from annual checkups while others, especially smokers and people with diabetes, benefit from more frequent visits and cleanings.
What’s the number one reason people don’t visit the dentist? Cost. If you do not have dental insurance, there might be options in your area for finding affordable dental care. Some dental schools offer low-cost dental services from student dentists who are supervised by licensed professional dentists. Your local health department might also be able to refer you to resources that can help offset the cost of dental care. There are even some dentists who offer payment plans or memberships.
Of course, the best way to save money on dental visits is to take excellent care of your teeth.
Practice Excellent Oral Care
What’s the saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure. It’s easier, less painful, and less expensive to prevent something from happening than it is to fix it. Anyone who’s had a cavity filled knows the truth to that statement.
The CDC lists 9 things people can do to maintain optimal oral health, in addition to regular dentist visits:
- Drink fluoridated water and use oral care products fortified with fluoride.
- Brush twice daily.
- Floss daily.
- Don’t use tobacco.
- Use alcohol minimally.
- Control (or prevent) diabetes.
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you suffer from dry mouth.
- Visit the dentist or doctor if you notice odd changes in tastes or smell.
- Help older people and children practice good oral care.
Never skip a tooth-brushing: No matter how tired you are at night, a half-effort brushing of your teeth is better than skipping it.
Remineralize Your Teeth
Add “remineralization” to your excellent oral care practice. Remineralization is the process of helping teeth rebuild enamel, which wears down when we consume acidic foods and beverages. Some medications and medical conditions can also weaken teeth enamel.
Saliva naturally remineralizes teeth, but you can also look for oral care products that help facilitate the process. When you shop for teeth whitening products, look for ones that not only brighten your teeth but also remineralize tooth enamel.
You can also reduce the demineralization process by cutting out sugar and reducing your intake of acidic foods. When you eat foods that are highly acidic and you don’t brush or rinse within 20 to 30 minutes, they are more likely to erode your teeth enamel.
Avoid Tobacco Use
Although it’s listed in the previous section among the CDC’s recommendations, it’s worth devoting a section to the ways that tobacco is bad for your teeth (and overall health).
Not only do nicotine and tobacco stain your teeth, but they also create plaque and tartar, which promote cavities. Tobacco slows blood circulation, which lessens the body’s ability to fight bacteria and infection.
Both smoking and chewing tobacco slow the production of saliva in the mouth, increasing the risk three to six times (Ameritas) for gum disease, periodontal disease, and a slew of other health issues, including mouth cancer.
For smokers and tobacco chewers, one of the best things you can do right now to strengthen your teeth is to quit.
If you have dry mouth, talk to your doctor about medications that might be causing it, or underlying conditions that need to be addressed. Also talk to your dentist about your dry mouth; he or she can recommend rinses or even sugar-free gums that can help with dry mouth.
Drink water instead of colas, juices, and sports drinks — all of which are highly acidic, stain your teeth, and promote tooth decay.
Cut Out Sugar
Although reducing sugar has already been mentioned earlier in this article, it’s worth repeating: Sugar is bad for your teeth. It causes tooth decay by weakening the tooth enamel so bad bacteria can attack your teeth. That’s how cavities form.
Sugar can also lead to a type of diabetes, which is another contributor to tooth decay. There is a strong link between diabetes and gum disease, gingivitis, and other diseases of the mouth.
If you do indulge in sugar, brush your teeth within 20 minutes. If that’s not possible, rinse well with fluoridated water, swishing it around your mouth and pushing and pulling it through your teeth.
Some dental professionals recommend that if you must drink sugary beverages, do so through a straw, as this helps bypass your teeth.