Taking care of your teeth isn’t a “once in a while” event. Proper oral care and hygiene require daily maintenance. While we do recommend coming in for annual checkups and cleanings, there are a handful of important practices you should keep in mind for optimal oral health at home.
It’s vital to establish a good homecare routine in order to fight off plaque buildup and keep your gums healthy. Here are a handful of activities you can do at home to ensure a clean, healthy, long-lasting smile.
Watch What You Eat
As with most aspects of oral health, food plays a major role in dental hygiene. If food didn’t get stuck in between our teeth, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about plaque buildup. Unfortunately, we all have to eat, right? Consider cutting back on starchy foods like crackers, bread, chips and pasta, as these carbohydrates easily stick to teeth and provide a meal for cavity-causing bacteria.
Eating crunchy vegetables and crisp fruits help clean and strengthen your teeth. Vegetables like broccoli and carrots and crisp fruits like apples and pears not only contain natural sugars, but also have great natural fiber that, when chewed, helps naturally cleanse the teeth.
More Water, Less Sugar and Acidic Liquids
Similar to harmful foods, drinking heavily acidic and sugary liquids can wear down the enamel of your teeth, which can lead to tooth decay and disease. Limit the amount of acidic juice, diet drinks, carbonated water, tea, and coffee that you consume. In addition, limit the number of sodas you drink, as these are the main culprit of cavities due to their high sugar levels (many popular soda cans have at least 10-15 teaspoons of sugar!).
Drinking more water, particularly water containing fluoride, dilutes acid and washes away sugar residue. Water also helps prevent dry mouth(lack of saliva), which can lead to tooth decay as well.
Brush & Floss Daily
Needless to say, brushing twice a day for two minutes and daily flossing are absolutely critical to maintaining oral health. Use a soft bristled toothbrush or electric toothbrush (we recommend Sonicare). Be sure to replace the brush or brush head every three months for maximum effectiveness. . In addition to frequency, it’s important to also remember technique. You should brush your teeth in slow, gentle circular strokes along the gumline making sure not to fall into the incorrect back-and-forth zig-zag or sawing motion.
Don’t let hard-to-reach areas hold you back from flossing! Even pre-made dental flossing sticks can have a huge impact on your oral health. Get in between each tooth (and behind back teeth) to stimulate your gums, remove plaque and decrease any existing potential inflammation areas.
Avoid Smoking & Limit Alcohol
Tobacco is extremely harmful for many reasons, especially when it comes to your oral health. Smoking cigarettes, vaping, or chewing tobacco is detrimental to your immune system, which lowers your body’s ability to fight disease and heal any affected tissue. These practices highly increase your risk of oral cancer. Smoking also causes staining of your teeth and tongue and bad breath. We highly recommend quitting cigarettes, vaping and chewing tobacco to improve your oral and overall health.
Alcohol is harmful to your oral health for a couple of reasons. In addition to its sugar content, which allows bacteria to thrive in unhealthy conditions, drinking alcohol also dehydrates you. When your mouth is dry, your saliva flow is stifled, which opens the door for bacteria to stick to enamel, leading to tooth decay. If you’re going to partake, be sure to drink water as much as possible in between beverages to neutralize the mouth and wash away any lingering bacteria.
Use Fluoride & Rinse with Mouthwash
Fluoride is a mineral that’s known for its ability to strengthen tooth enamel and fight against bacteria and acid that lead to cavities and tooth decay. Drinking fluoride-rich water and using toothpaste containing fluoride are great ways to replenish the levels of calcium and phosphorus that contribute to the strength of your teeth.
Similarly, using mouthwash (especially those that contain fluoride) helps prevent periodontal (gum) disease and ward off potential cavities by displacing lingering bacteria that lead to plaque buildup.
As you can see, there are quite a few critical components of improving and maintaining your oral health at home. While we’ve reviewed activities that you can do yourself throughout the year, there’s still the major important element: see your dentist regularly (at least twice per year) for a cleaning and checkup. When you come in for an appointment, our doctors and hygienist perform a thorough analysis to determine the presence of gum disease or tooth decay. It’s important to catch these early and adjust your treatment plan accordingly. We highly recommend adhering to a regular cadence of appointments to maintain optimal oral health.
If you’re ready to improve your smile or have questions about anything, please feel free to contact us or schedule some time to speak with one of our dental team members. Our team is standing by to answer your questions and to make sure you receive the best care in the most comfortable environment possible.
Dental Arts is a full-service general dentistry and orthodontic practice for the entire family. For more than three decades, we have been providing the highest quality dental and orthodontic care available to the residents of New Orleans. Explore the Dental Arts difference today.