Sparkling smiles are attractive and infectious. When you smile with a big, healthy smile, it makes other people smile back at you...
Sparkling smiles are attractive and infectious. When you smile with a big, healthy smile, it makes other people smile back at you. You can maintain a healthy smile by practicing good oral hygiene, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular preventative care.
Method 1: Keeping your Teeth Strong with Good Dental Hygiene
Brush for at least two minutes
Do this in the morning and at night before you go to sleep. The most important thing in maintaining a good oral hygiene is to adopt the correct brushing technique. Ask your dentist or hygienist to teach you how to correctly use the toothbrush and how to apply it to your gums and teeth.
- Brush with a soft bristled brush or an electric toothbrush. Brush all the surfaces of each tooth, including the chewing surface, the back and the front.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months. If you use an electric toothbrush, you should also replace the head every three months.
- It also never hurts to brush your teeth in the middle of the day.
- Wait about 30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth. After you eat, the acid produced by the food in your mouth causes your enamel to soften. Immediately after eating you can rinse your mouth with water, then after 30 minutes, you can brush.
- Children should brush their baby teeth both to prevent cavities and to learn good oral hygiene habits.
Protect your teeth against decay by using a toothpaste with fluoride
Fluoride strengthens the enamel coating on your teeth, making it less vulnerable to decay. Ideally, the toothpaste should have 1,350–1,500 ppm of fluoride in it. This is safe for children as long as an adult supervises them to make sure they don’t eat it.
- If you use a lower strength toothpaste for a young child, make sure it has at least 1,000 ppm of fluoride. If it is lower, it won’t have enough to prevent tooth decay.
- Use a pea-sized amount on the toothbrush. When you are finished brushing, spit it out. You can rinse your mouth with water, but only briefly. You don’t want to wash away all the fluoride!
Prevent tooth decay from occurring between your teeth by flossing
Flossing will remove food particles, plaque, and bacteria that might be hiding between your teeth where the bristles of your brush can’t reach them.
- Use about a foot-and-a-half of floss. Wind it around one finger of your dominant hand and one finger of your non-dominant hand. Then, with your dominant hand, insert the floss between your teeth and curve the floss around one of the teeth. Rub up and down, including going gently below the gum line. Then curve it around the other tooth and repeat. Use a mirror to help you see what you are doing.
- Floss at least once per day. If you find the floss difficult to handle, you can use an interdental cleaner which has a small handle with a brush, pick, or stick that helps you get between your teeth.
- If you floss before brushing, this will help the fluoride in your toothpaste get between your teeth and provide antibacterial protection.
You can reduce the amount of bacteria floating around your mouth by rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash or or salt solution. If you use a mouthwash, look for one with fluoride in it.
- A good mouthwash should also have chlorhexidine in a small concentration, such as 0.02%. Avoid products that contain alcohol.
- To make a salt solution, dissolve salt into a cup of warm water. As you add salt, taste it to make sure it isn’t so salty that you won’t be able to stand it. If it’s too salty, add more water.
- Swish the mouthwash or salt solution in your mouth for about two minutes. Move it around as much as possible so that it will coat all areas of your teeth. Then tip your head back and gargle. Spit the mixture out afterwards. Don’t swallow it. Gargling might not be appropriate for children who are too young to safely do so without choking.
Scrape bacteria off your tongue with a scraper or by brushing it
The roughness of your tongue traps food particles and bacteria, which may contribute to tooth decay.
- Don’t press so hard it hurts or bleeds. You should be able to see a film of saliva and debris on the scraper by just moving it gently. Go from back to front.
- Some toothbrushes have tongue scrapers on the back of them. Look to see if yours has a rough little pad.
Smoking will stain your teeth yellow, give you bad breath, and make you more likely to get gum disease and mouth cancers.
- If you already smoke, you can greatly increase your overall health and the health of your teeth by quitting.
Method 2: Eating a Healthy Diet for Healthy Teeth
Reduce your sugar intake
When the bacteria in your mouth break down sugars, it produces acids which dissolve the protective enamel coating on your teeth. This makes your teeth more vulnerable to decay. You can limit you sugar intake by:
- Not eating desserts like candy, chocolate, cakes, ice cream, pastries
- Not adding sugar to your tea or coffee
- Eating low sugar breakfast cereals
- Avoiding sugary sodas and soft drinks
- Drinking only one glass of fruit juice per day. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary.
Avoid drinks that stain your teeth
The following food are very common causes of yellow, unhealthy looking teeth:
Cut down your alcohol consumption
Alcohol wears away the protective enamel coating on your teeth. Prolonged consumption of high amounts can lead to cavities and tissue dehydration, making the the tissue in your mouth weaker and more vulnerable to bacterial aggression.
- People who both drink and smoke are at a higher risk of mouth cancers.
Eat extra crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables
These foods will help scrape your teeth clean as you eat them. And they are good for you! Options include:
Reduce the amounts of sticky foods you eat
They are more likely to leave sugary films that will lead to tooth decay between your teeth. Examples include:
- Granola bars
- Dried fruit like raisins
- Gummy candies or taffies
Limit the amount of highly acidic foods and drinks you consume
Acid can dissolve the enamel on your teeth and make the more vulnerable to decay. Highly acidic foods and drinks include:
- Orange juice
- Grape fruit juice
- Vinegar salad dressings
Drink extra water
Water will help prevent food from getting stuck in your teeth.
- If your mouth is dry, you are probably not drinking enough water. The quantity of water you need will vary daily based on the weather, your activity level, and the proper functioning of your salivary glands.
- The first sign of dehydration is thirst. So if you are thirsty, help yourself to a tall glass of water.
Chew sugar-free gum after eating
Gum will make the saliva flow, which will help breakdown any remaining pieces of food.
- It is important that the gum be sugar-free, otherwise you are coating your teeth in sugar and increasing the chances of tooth decay.
- Sugar-free gums are widely available at local grocery stores and drug stores.
Method 3: Visiting the Dentist
Go to a dentist if you notice symptoms suggesting that you are having problems with your teeth
At the early stages, it might not hurt, so it may be tempting to put off going to the dentist. But once the problem is more severe, it will be harder to treat. Schedule a cleaning and dental exam if you have:
- Red, swollen, or painful gums
- Bleeding when you brush and floss
- Gums that are contracting away from your teeth
- Permanent teeth that are loose
- Sensitivity to the temperature of your food
- Bad breath or a strange taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away
- Swelling in your jaw
Discuss treatment options with your dentist
If you have tooth or mouth pain, you may need treatment for:
- An abscessed tooth
- An impacted tooth
- Gum disease
Get a professional teeth cleaning
It is best to get your teeth cleaned and get an exam every six months. Children should start seeing a dentist as soon as they begin getting baby teeth. Your dentist or hygienist will:
- Thoroughly clean your teeth
- Removing any of the hard plaques that often develop in hard to clean places
- Check to make sure you are not developing any cavities
- Check the health of your gums
- Show you the proper technique for brushing and flossing
Talk to your dentist about protective treatments for your teeth
Two common and effective ones are fluoride varnish and fissure sealants. Both are suitable for adults and children.
- Fluoride varnish is a treatment where a strong fluoride is applied to the teeth to make the enamel stronger and less vulnerable to decay. This can be done every six months on both baby and permanent teeth.
- A fissure sealant is a plastic or resin-based composite coating that is applied to the crevices of the teeth to protect them from bacteria and food that might get stuck in them. This is applied to permanent teeth and can last up to 10 years.
Find affordable dental care
Dental care can be expensive and many health insurance plans may not cover it. You can look for low cost dental care by:
- Contacting dentistry and dental hygiene schools to see if they offer low cost treatment to help students get experience. This will be supervised by an experienced dentist or hygienist. You can search online at the websites of organizations like the American Dental Association or the American Dental Hygienists Association.
- Calling or searching the websites of your community health center, county or state health department, and the US Health Resources and Services Administration to find clinics in your area that charge based on income.
- Contacting health organizations like United Way. You can dial 211 in the US to reach your local United Way organization.