Want to keep your teeth healthy for a long time? So do we. So here are the top 5 things you can do to keep your smile looking great and your teeth free from problems for as long as possible. We’ll start with the obvious and move on to a few things that you might not have heard as often. Want to know why? We’ve added plenty of information to explain the reasons that these are sound advice.
1. Brush Your Teeth at least 2 times a Day
If you haven’t heard how important it is to brush your teeth, you haven’t been to see a dentist. Brushing twice a day is the single most important way to keep your teeth healthy. Why? There isn’t anything particularly magical in the two times a day idea. Dentists used to say after every meal (or three times a day) and so did toothpaste commercials. Two is a pretty good number and here is why.
Brushing removes the biofilm from the teeth. That is the sticky substances that stick to the enamel. Done regularly, the initial film that sticks to the teeth never collects enough of the harmful bacteria from the mouth to cause damage to the teeth. But left for too long, that early sticky film becomes home to bad bacteria that cause decay and gum disease.
Just Like A TV Game Show Contest
Have you ever seen one of those challenges on a TV game show where the contestant has to perform an activity, but every minute they must stop to hit a reset button to keep their timer from running out? If the contestant misses resetting the clock they get a penalty or are eliminated. Brushing your teeth is sort of like hitting the reset button. While some bio film is settling in on your teeth as you go through your day, when you brush, it wipes everything away. As long as you do this often enough, the harmful bacteria can’t get to your teeth and destroy them.
Could Once be Enough?
The reality is that if done very completely, one time enough might be all you really need. However, not too many of us have the patience or skill to get every bit of food off our teeth in a single brushing session. We’ll grab an old preparedness saying and apply it to your teeth. Have you heard “Two is one and one is none?” If you brush only once a day and don’t get everything off your teeth, bad bacteria has a much better chance of sticking to the biofilm in your mouth. It takes just 48 hours for this bacteria to become harmful to your teeth and gums. Miss some of it and you give it a head start. Brushing a second time each day greatly increases the chances of wiping away all the junk on your teeth before any destructive bacteria can harm them.
We’re Not All Doing This
Even though, it is probably the most often repeated advice, we’re not all following it. A 2014 study by Delta Dental found that only about 70% of Americans brush at least twice each day. The survey results also showed that those who brushed at least twice a day were more likely to be happy with their oral health than those who didn’t. So while two certainly isn’t a magic number, it is a pretty good guide to keeping your teeth healthy.
2. Don’t Just Floss the Week Before Your Dental Checkup
Think we didn’t know about that trick? People are more honest about their dental habits when their dentist isn’t around. In 2015, a Harris poll indicated that 27% of American adults lie to their dentist about how much they floss. But, whether you lie about it or not, you should still be flossing.
But Wasn’t Flossing Shown to be Ineffective?
You may have been among those feeling pretty good about not flossing when the news broke that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had removed flossing as a recommended activity. But removing the decades-old recomendation was more of a technicality in the law than because flossing isn’t beneficial. It turns out the government never really studied or even collected evidence about whether flossing was beneficial. And such evidence was legally required to include something in the official dietary guidelines.
However, the National Institutes of Health and other parts of the government still recommend flossing. A few months after the benefits of flossing were called into question, NIH published a story online called “Don’t toss the floss.” And they are not alone. The American Dental Association continues to recommend flossing. So does Consumer Reports. And pretty much every dentist out there will still tell you the same thing. It is one of the simplist and most effective ways to keep your teeth healthy.
So while 9% of you would rather do your taxes than floss daily, it is still one of the best ways to keep your teeth healthy.
3. Avoid Acidic Drinks
What qualifies as an acidic drink? Soda, sports drinks, fruit and vegetable juices, sweet tea, beer, wine, lemonade, fruit punch and many kids’ drinks. All these drinks have a pH below 5.5, the level at which the tooth enamel starts to dissolve. Coffee (black or with cream) and some brewed teas are acidic, but have pH levels above 5.5. Milk may be a little acidic, but not to the level where it starts to harm the enamel of your teeth. Pure water is a neutral and one of the best things you can drink. Just watch out for fruit flavored water, which can be nearly as acidic as soda.
4. Chew Sugar Free Gum
Avoiding the sugar is good. The saliva production that chewing gum creates is even better. It helps to wash away acids and protect tooth enamel. If you don’t enjoy gum much, here are some other things you can eat to help kill the bacteria in your mouth and keep your teeth healthy.
5. Use Mouthwash
Not just any mouthwash. Use one that does something useful for your teeth. Those fall into two categories.
- Mouthwashes that kill germs
- Mouthwashes that help strengthen and protect teeth using fluoride
You might want to alternate or use one in the morning and the other at night, depending on your teeth. We covered mouthwash in an article called “Should I use Mouthwash,” which is a good reference if you want more information about why and what type of mouthwash to use.