There’s no better feeling at a dental check-up than hearing your dentist say, “Everything looks great; see you in six months.” Yet, many of us aren’t caring for our teeth the way we should in-between visits. For example, 20% of people say they only floss when something is stuck between their teeth, and many admit to using unusual objects such as playing cards and safety pins to dislodge the offending piece of food.
If you want to make your dentist happy at every check-up, here are five important dental health care tips to follow.
1. Floss Daily and Properly
As mentioned, most people don’t like to floss, but flossing daily is one of the best ways to prevent gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to swollen, infected gums, and eventually bone and tooth loss. Flossing also helps prevent cavities from forming in between teeth, since these areas can’t be reached with a toothbrush.
Luckily, there are many home remedies for gingivitis, one of which is to floss properly. This means using dental floss, handheld flossers, or flossing brushes—which are all oral care tools approved by the American Dental Association. Avoid using any other objects to try to get food out of your teeth as they can injure your gums or damage your teeth.
Floss at least once a day, preferably at night before you brush your teeth (brushing after flossing will sweep away dislodged food particles.) Wrap the floss around your two index fingers and scrape the surface of each tooth up and down. Be sure to gently reach up under the gumline so the floss cleans plaque from this area.
Experiment with a few different floss brands—some people prefer a wider floss to a skinnier one. If you really don’t like to floss, a water-powered flosser will also do the job.
2. Brush Gently
Some people take an aggressive approach when it comes to brushing their teeth and believe pressing hard with the brush will clean them better. But when it comes to cleaning your teeth, gentle is the way to go. Brushing your teeth too hard can damage tooth enamel, irritate your gums, and fray the bristles of the brush.
Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and hold it at a 45-degree angle against your teeth and the gumline. Brush gently using circular motions, which removes plaque better than brushing with up-and-down strokes.
Consider buying an electric toothbrush which does most of the work for you and which may be more effective at removing plaque compared to manual brushing. Many models also contain built-in sensors or an automatic shut-off feature to warn you if you’re pressing the brushhead too hard against your teeth.
It goes without saying that you should also brush your teeth at least twice a day to remove plaque and prevent cavities from forming. Three times a day—or brushing after every meal—is even better!
Use your favorite fluoride toothpaste and be sure to brush for a full two minutes each time. Make sure you’re reaching every surface of the teeth. Although two minutes may seem like a long time, it’s needed to ensure you’re removing as much plaque as possible.
3. Avoid Using Teeth as Tools
It’s tempting to turn to our teeth in a pinch when a pair of scissors or other cutting tool isn’t available. But teeth weren’t meant to be used as tools. Biting down on something hard can chip, crack, or break them—leading to an emergency dental visit.
Likewise, you want to take care not to bite down on hard foods such as ice cubes, peanut brittle, and hard candies. They can really damage your teeth.
4. Eat the Right Foods
The old saying “you are what you eat” is definitely true when it comes to your teeth. Limit sticky, sugary foods (and clean your teeth promptly after consuming them) and strive to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes dairy products, greens, and lean protein to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
It’s also important to avoid eating highly acidic foods as they can break down tooth enamel over time. Once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good, and your teeth are now more susceptible to decay.
If you do enjoy acidic foods such as citrus fruit and juice, wait for at least a half-hour after eating them before brushing your teeth. Tooth enamel is temporarily weakened during this time frame and brushing your teeth now can actually do more harm than good. Drink plenty of water to help wash off the acid before cleaning your teeth.
Consume soda, red wine, coffee, and blueberries in moderation as these foods can all stain your teeth. Use a straw when sipping soda to help prevent it from coming into contact with your teeth, or better yet, don’t drink it altogether.
5. See Your Dentist
What can really make your dentist happy? Actually going to see them every six months for a regular exam and cleaning! No matter how scrupulous you are with your at-home routine dental care, you still need to see a dentist to make sure your teeth and gums are in good health.
A dentist helps uncover and fix small dental problems before they can cause you pain and an expensive bill. Also, brushing alone cannot remove plaque that has hardened into tartar—you require professional cleanings to get it off your teeth. Your dentist and dental hygienist can also tell you if you’re doing a great job taking care of your teeth at home.
Remember These Dental Health Care Tips
Follow these dental health care tips to keep your smile in tiptop shape—and your dentist pleased! Remember that the best form of dental care you can get is the preventive habits you practice daily at home.
Need more advice on keeping your pearly whites strong and shiny? Browse all of our Health Teeth content and you’ll be smiling in no time!