No one wants to suffer the discomfort of a serious dental problem such as gum disease, decay or broken teeth. Not only can these problems be painful and troublesome to treat, but they can also cause embarrassment and even affect the way you eat or speak.
Of course, it is essential to visit your dentist regularly and to follow his or her advice closely. However, it is also important that you cultivate a really good oral hygiene routine between visits too.
Here are seven habits you can adopt on an everyday basis to help prevent serious dental problems.
1. Brush thoroughly
Everyone knows the first rule of oral hygiene at home: Brush your teeth. You may also already know that you should brush twice a day, for two minutes each time.
But even if you brush twice daily, you may still not be following the right technique. Brushing improperly will prevent you from removing food debris effectively which, over time, can lead to plaque and tartar buildup and tooth decay.
The proper technique for brushing is as follows:
- Angle the brush at 45° from your gum line and sweep the brush away from the gum.
- Brush the front, back and chewing surface of each tooth with back and forth movements.
- Gently brush your tongue to remove bacteria.
One last important note about brushing you have to remember: Brushing straight after meals can actually damage your teeth. Food and drink can weaken the vital enamel on your teeth. Brushing before your saliva has the time to neutralize the acid from food can cause tiny amounts of enamel to be brushed away, so try to wait 30 minutes before brushing.
2. Chew or rinse after meals
Can’t wait 30 minutes to freshen up? Reach for gum first. Chewing gum increases saliva production, which is great for your teeth. Be sure to pick a sugar-free variety to chew after meals since this will help your mouth wash away bacteria and neutralize tooth-decaying acids.
Don’t like gum? No problem; have a quick rinse with mouthwash after meals instead.
Remember, however, that rinsing and chewing are never a substitute for thorough brushing twice a day.
3. Floss, floss, floss
The importance of flossing can’t be understated. Even the most thorough brushing only cleans around 2/3 of your mouth, so you need to floss to finish the job.
The gaps between teeth are the perfect hiding places for food debris; use floss or an interdental brush daily to make sure you get every last pesky morsel out.
Your breath will be fresher and, at the same time, you’ll be preventing nasty gum disease from developing.
4. Check the sugar content of your food
It’s well known that sugar causes tooth decay and that sweets and chocolate are bad for teeth. But many still overlook the fact that sugar is hidden in many savory foods.
Starting today, take the time to check the food labeling on your everyday foods. You may be surprised to see how often sugar features as an ingredient. Notorious examples include ready-made pasta sauces, cereals, and even baby food jars and pouches. Remember that sugar can also appear as fructose, sucrose and glucose, amongst others, on these labels.
To try to cut down the amount of sugar your teeth are exposed to, make your own sugar-free versions of your favorite products. You can also do this by comparing products when shopping and picking the ones with the lowest sugar content.
5. Avoid teeth-staining drinks
Everyone loves flashing a pearly white smile. If you want to be constantly proud of your smile, it really would be wise to drink less tea, coffee and red wine from now on.
Once the stains from these products start appearing, it can be tricky to remove them. As such, in this case, prevention is better than cure.
6. Add more mouth-friendly foods to your diet
Although you may need to eat less sugar to avoid serious dental problems, there are some delicious foods you can eat more of.
Dairy foods like cheese, unsweetened yogurt and plain milk are a great source of the calcium that your teeth need.
Raw vegetables provide heaps of mouth-friendly nutrients without harming your teeth. Crunchy types like carrots are nature’s own toothbrush, helping to remove debris as you chew.
7. Drink lots of water
Lastly, water is great for keeping your mouth feeling fresh throughout the day. It can also strengthen your teeth.
Most drinking water contains fluoride, a compound that can reduce tooth decay. If yours doesn’t, then it may be wise to add a fluoride supplement to your family’s diet, particularly for your children’s benefit.
Dr. Yvette Porter is the founding dentist at Apple Dental in Newstead, Brisbane, which she started over 11 years ago, and continues to own and practice there today. She works with a team of female dentists who aim to provide gentle, and affordable dental care to patients in Brisbane. Dr. Porter is a member of the Australian Dental Association and is passionate about family, and children’s dentistry, hoping to make their dental experience truly pleasant.