Improve your oral care routine.

Today’s world is often hectic; between wrangling kids, getting to work on time, and falling into bed at night, it can be difficult to make time for your oral health. Unfortunately, while our teeth are designed to last us our entire lives, neglecting your oral health often causes your teeth and your wallet to take a hit. Here are a few simple ways you can take better care of your teeth, helping to ensure that they last you a lifetime.

1. Adjust your diet.

Eating a lot of sugary foods and drinks is just as bad for your teeth as it is for the rest of your body. This doesn’t mean you can never consume sugary foods and drinks, but you should limit them. Instead, drink water and eat fruits and vegetables for snacks. They’re much better for your body and your teeth, providing essential vitamins. The harder vegetables, such as carrots and celery, can even act as natural toothbrushes, rubbing plaque off your teeth as you chew. 

Additionally, water is more hydrating, won’t stain your teeth like many sugary drinks will, and acts as a natural defense against cavities by flushing food particles from your mouth. Adjusting your diet can be hard at first, but it’s better for your entire body. You’ll likely notice many benefits in addition to improved oral health, such as higher energy levels.

2. Limit your snacking.

It’s easy to graze on snacks throughout the day, but doing so provides a constant stream of food for the bacteria in your mouth to feast upon. It’s better for your teeth if you’re not constantly eating, so limit how often you snack. Try to stick to eating your main meals and perhaps one larger snack each day.

3. Take the time to brush your teeth well.

Most people know that they should brush their teeth twice a day, but it’s common to skip often or to rush through the chore, only brushing for a few seconds before rushing out the door. Quick brushing jobs like this might make you feel like you’ve fulfilled the requirements, but they really aren’t much better than skipping altogether. 

Removing all the plaque from your teeth is incredibly important, so a thorough brushing job should take at least two minutes each time. Instead of scrubbing your teeth, which can be bad for them, brush them gently with small, circular, back-and-forth motions to clean your teeth. Brush your tongue, too—plaque can build up on it, which can spread to your teeth and cause bad breath.

4. Floss at least once daily.

Flossing might seem mundane, but it’s just as important as brushing your teeth. It keeps your gums healthy and removes plaque and food particles that your toothbrush simply can’t reach. If you don’t floss, a good portion of the surface area of your teeth simply isn’t getting cleaned. It’s like cleaning only half of your shower; one half of it might be clean, but the other half is still covered in mildew—and that mildew will quickly spread to the clean half of your shower. 

Additionally, keeping your gums healthy plays a surprisingly important role in the health of your teeth. Periodontitis is a severe gum disease where bacteria makes its way underneath your gums and begins eating away at the bone that supports the tooth itself. It’s the leading cause of tooth loss in America—and about half of all American adults have it. 

To keep your gums and teeth healthy, you need to floss at least once a day. It may seem time-consuming, but practice makes perfect; soon, you’ll be better and faster at flossing. At first, you may notice that your gums bleed when you floss; this is a sign of inflammation caused by bacteria. Don’t stop flossing because of this, as the bleeding will stop on its own after one or two weeks of regular flossing.

5. Choose the right mouthwash.

Mouthwash can help protect your oral health by strengthening your teeth and fighting bacteria, but some are only designed to improve your breath. Carefully choose a mouthwash that fits your oral health needs and helps to prevent cavities or fight gum disease. If you’re unsure what mouthwash you should use, feel free to ask your dentist for advice. They may have suggestions for you based on your history and current risk factors.

6. Prioritize toothpaste with fluoride.

Fluoride is an essential mineral for your oral health. Although it can’t repair cavities that have already occurred, it strengthens teeth and may be able to help repair problem spots on your teeth before they become cavities. When you select a toothpaste, you should always make sure that it has fluoride in it.

7. Replace your toothbrush often.

The American Dental Association recommends that you change your toothbrush every three or four months, though you should change it earlier than this if the bristles appear worn or frayed. Once the bristles become worn, they simply won’t be as effective at removing bacteria from your teeth.

8. Wear mouth guards during athletic activities.

Tooth enamel is the hardest known biological material—it’s even harder than steel! Its downside is that it’s brittle, so while it’s resistant to scratching, it breaks easily. This is why wearing mouth guards during contact sports is so important. Mouthguards help prevent injury to your teeth, saving you money and a whole lot of pain. In addition to wearing mouth guards during contact sports, like football and hockey, you should wear them during any sport or activity during which you might receive a blow to the face. This includes sports like soccer, skateboarding, ice skating, and more.

9. Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.

Any form of tobacco use weakens your immune system, making it hard for you to fight off a gum infection. If you smoke, your risk of getting gum disease is double that of a nonsmoker; any form of tobacco use, however, raises your risk of getting gum disease. It also makes it harder for you to heal, so it’s hard to fight off a gum infection once you get it. Tobacco use is also linked to a number of other oral and overall health issues, including mouth and lung cancer. 

If you already smoke, it’s a good idea to think about quitting. If you don’t want to quit, you should really step up your oral hygiene routine to protect yourself against getting gum disease; you should floss, brush your teeth, and use mouthwash regularly, and you may even want to try brushing your teeth three times a day instead of just two.

10. Visit your dentist twice a year.

It’s common for people to think that they don’t need to go to the dentist if they aren’t in pain. In reality, most dental problems cause absolutely no pain until they’re severe and require more invasive treatments. As a result, you should visit your dentist regularly, even if you’re not experiencing any discomfort. During your preventive cleaning, your dentist can remove hardened tartar that you simply can’t remove at home. They’re also trained to notice early signs of issues, such as decay, gum disease, or fillings that are failing, which enables you to get treated early. While some people may need to visit the dentist more often, most people should visit the dentist’s office every six months. 

Our teeth are meant to last a lifetime, but our hectic lifestyles can often mean that caring for our teeth takes a backseat. It might save you a few minutes in the short term, but unhealthy teeth and gums can be incredibly painful and require expensive treatments to fix. Thankfully, if you give your teeth the care they need by cleaning them thoroughly and cutting back on bad habits, they can continue to do their job for years to come.