There are a lot of reasons to take care of your teeth: maintaining that award-winning smile of yours, protecting the health and longevity of your gums, and minimizing yucky bacteria that can cause bad breath, discomfort, and even chronic health issues.
You probably already know you have to brush twice a day and floss every night before bed, but there are a lot of other factors that play into the health and glow of your smile. To ensure you’re taking the very best possible care of your teeth, we reached out to some of our favorite dentists for their tops tips.
We asked fourteen dentists one simple question: “How can you take better care of your teeth?” Here’s what they said:
Stop avoiding your dentist
Regular dental visits address areas that you may be missing. Your dentist has special instruments that can remove the hard build up along your teeth (yes, the kind that causes malodor). Dental x-rays can also see the bony structures beneath the gums, the root surfaces of the teeth, and the areas between the teeth that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. By visiting the dentist regularly, you are more closely monitoring the health of your teeth and gums, and any disease process can be caught early on.
We even recommend having hygiene visits more often than twice per year. What most people don't know is that the whole "visit the dentist twice a year" concept came from a toothpaste jingle that was aired many years ago. Having your teeth professionally cleaned more frequently, such as 3-4 times per year, can lead to a healthier oral environment.
Dr. Angela Abernathy
Rinse with fluoride
Toothpaste contains fluoride, which remineralizes (hardens) the teeth after a day of eating cavity-causing foods. What most people don’t realize is that fluoride needs time in contact with your teeth to be effective. If you rinse your mouth out with water or a non-fluoridated mouthwash, you remove the fluoride before it has an opportunity to work.
Dr. Eugene M Gamble
Keep snacking under control
The foods we eat on a daily basis tend to generate a lot of acid. I recommend waiting at least three hours between meals, so your saliva has time to neutralize the acid attack. After meals, chew on some sugar-free gum, with xylitol or erythritol, to reduce the risk of dental plaque and tooth decay.
Dr. Kristiina Liigant
An apple a day also keeps the dentist away
Many people are diligent about brushing their teeth in the mornings and evenings, but they don't think about their teeth in between those times. What you eat and drink during the day can have an immense effect on your oral health. For example, apples help clean teeth by scrubbing against any lingering plaque, and they can fight bad breath. They're also just good for you, plain and simple.
Dr. Ben Friberg
Eat more fresh fruits
One of the most unexpected ways someone can take care of their teeth is by eating more fresh fruits. Yes, fruits are naturally sweet and can be acidic, but they have a number of positive benefits for your dental health. Chewing fresh fruit stimulates saliva flow, which can lessen the amount of acid in your mouth. This increased saliva also helps wash away food particles. Apples are one of the best fruits you can eat to boost your dental hygiene. In addition to stimulating saliva flow, the fibrous content of apples act as a toothbrush and help scrub away plaque and acidity, while killing off bad-breath-causing bacteria!”
Dr. Christopher Gudger
Make dental health a family affair
Did you know kissing a significant other with bad oral health can expose you to their unhealthy bacteria? Yes, one person’s tooth decay and periodontal disease-causing bacteria can be passed to another, through kissing or even sharing utensils. Make good oral health and regular visits to your dentist a family affair to ensure accountability. If you set aside a time each night for brushing and/or schedule your dental appointments together, everyone is more likely to stay on track.
Victoria A. Petrucco, DDS
Teeth whitening isn’t just cosmetic
While teeth whitening is generally sought after for cosmetic purposes, there are numerous studies linking carbamide peroxide (the active ingredient in teeth whitening) to reduced cavity-causing bacteria. Teeth whitening helps minimize the risk of cavities developing on the teeth by stopping the cavity causing bacteria from flourishing. I generally recommend teeth whitening to patients (especially teenagers in braces) who struggle keeping plaque off of their teeth.
Jason Hui, DDS, FAGD
Think twice about what’s coming into contact with your teeth
High-staining foods and beverages, such as red wine, coffee, tea, curries, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and berries are known to stain your teeth. After consuming these types of foods and drinks, it’s a good idea to drink water and swish some around your mouth. This will remove the tannins, or staining compounds from your saliva, preventing stains.
While you may want to grab your toothbrush right away, water is actually the safer choice at first. Be sure to wait at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth. Your enamel is a bit softer during this time and can be damaged if brushed to soon.
Caroline Girard, DDS
When it comes to dental work, stick with a trusted doctor
Do your research before investing in trendy at-home aligners (you know––the ones you see on Instagram). Tooth movement should only be performed by a licensed dentist or orthodontist. More and more negative reports are popping up about these types of orthodontic startups. The good news? At-home teeth whitening products are still safe and effective when used properly, though you may experience some sensitivity.
Dr. Zachary Linhart
Focus on diet
You can take better care of your oral health and maintain healthy gums by carefully choosing your diet. For example, sweet potatoes have Vitamin A which helps with salivary flow. Onions, due to their antibacterial properties, kill the bacteria that harm teeth and gums. Avocados are rich in vitamin E, which reduces inflammation and controls periodontal disease. Watermelon has Vitamin C for maintaining healthy gums, strawberries remove stains from teeth, and bananas are rich in Magnesium to help remineralize the teeth.
Dr. Athena Goodarzi
Consider the power of orthodontia
Orthodontia is not simply cosmetic. When your teeth are crowded together or too far apart, you’re more likely to experience recession. The more lined up your teeth are, the fewer problems you’ll experience in the future, such as the need for gum replacement surgery.
Dr. Lawrence M. Lesperance
Delve into your sleep habits
You can take charge of your oral health by taking a sleep test. Obstructive Sleep Apnea [OSA] and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) are major health concerns that are mostly undiagnosed, meaning a lot of people don't know that they have them. These conditions are not only related to serious health issues, such as High Blood Pressure and Strokes, but they contribute to teeth clenching and grinding. When this goes on without treatment, the teeth can be worn down, chip, or crack––sometimes so badly that they can’t be fixed.
Daniel Balaze, D.M.D., F.A.G.D.
Consuming sugar is by far the number 1 factor that harms our teeth on a daily basis. People who opt for soda or other sugary beverages in place of water are far more likely to damage their teeth. The sugar from these drinks builds up in your mouth, creating acid which attacks your enamel and leads to tooth decay.
Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani
Avoid smoking and vaping at all costs
I encourage all of my patients—young and old alike— to reconsider smoking and vaping. It can wreak havoc on your overall health—including your oral health. Nicotine can reduce blood flow and nutrition to your gums, which need those nutrients to stay healthy. Damaged healthy gum tissues can lead to a whole host of oral issues. There is nothing worse than restricting oxygen flow to your mouth to begin the overall deterioration of healthy tissues.
Studies are suggesting that vaping also increases gum inflammation and overall swelling inside the mouth. Additionally, vaping combines dry mouth with increased bacteria, leading to more decay.
Your mouth can be a primary indicator of your body’s wellness. When you are destroying healthy bacteria and tissue in the oral cavity, it’s simply not a great way to take care of yourself.
Dr. Bill Busch