By. Dr. John Nakhla, DDS
It’s no secret – no one likes having bad breath and brownish-yellow teeth. Your oral health and hygiene play a major role in your physical, social, emotional and professional well-being. Achieving that healthy smile isn’t difficult or complicated, but needs your commitment. Here are 10 tips to achieving, and maintaining, the healthy smile you deserve.
- Brush often. To have a healthy mouth, you need a clean mouth. Brushing is the first, and most important, step towards keeping your mouth clean. The two most important times in the day to brush are first thing in the morning and right before bed. Brushing in the morning will remove any plaque and bacteria (morning breath!) that built up while you were sleeping. Before bed, brushing your teeth will go a long way towards helping avoid cavities. Plaque accumulates on your teeth throughout the day as you eat and drink. When you sleep, you don’t salivate as much and your mouth dries up, as does that plaque. Dried plaque becomes much harder to remove later while brushing and leaves your teeth much more susceptible to caries (the disease that causes cavities).
- Brush effectively. Brushing often and using good technique are equally important in effective plaque removal. Make sure to aim the brush bristles at a 45-degree angle against both your teeth AND your gums. Use a gentle, circular motion. Avoid back-and-forth motions while brushing. Holding the brush like a pencil can help you avoid brushing too hard.
- Practice flossing with your eyes closed. Often times, people are more reluctant to floss regularly, because they need to do it in front of the mirror and good flossing does take a little bit of time. Practicing with your eyes shut will allow you to floss anywhere, anytime – in your car, at your desk, on the couch in front of the TV or while in bed. Then leave floss packages in those different places, making it much more convenient. Flossing goes hand-in-hand with brushing – food particles stuck between your teeth are a major cause of cavities and inflamed, sensitive gums.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwash. Most over-the-counter mouthwashes have too much alcohol which can dry the tissues in your mouth out, making them more vulnerable to bacteria.
- Use flouride toothpaste. There are a lot of different toothpaste options on the market; arguably the most important thing to consider in picking your toothpaste is the flouride content. Flouride helps protect teeth from cavities by actually changing the chemical structure of teeth, making them much more resistant to the caries process and the cavities that process causes.
- Use a soft-bristle toothbrush. Hard bristles can be too rough on the outer enamel layer of teeth, possibly even wearing it away.
- Clean your tongue every morning. This helps to remove the buildup of bacteria on your tongue, which is the main reason for bad breath.
- The “White Teeth” Diet. Watch out for red wine, coffee, black tea, dark juices, and colas; they may taste good but they can stain your teeth if consumed regularly. Brush your teeth, if possible, right after consuming anything that can stain your teeth. If brushing isn’t an option, rinse your mouth out with water or eat a ‘detergent’ food at the end of that meal. ‘Detergent’ foods, such as apples, raw carrots and celery, are food items you can enjoy as the very last part of your meal that can provide a quick, convenient teeth cleaning on-the-go. While this won’t replace brushing and flossing, it will help to reduce staining.
- Brush with baking soda. Brushing with baking soda (or a toothpaste containing baking soda) on a weekly or semi-weekly basis will help remove stain and whiten teeth. This should not replace your regular brushing with flouride toothpaste.
- Replace your brush every 2-3 months. Brush bristles wear with use and need to be replaced. Once the bristles have become bent or curved, they become ineffective at reaching the pits on your teeth and the spaces between them.