You and your smile make a great pair. Together, you could take on the world, and you do, daily. A great, healthy smile is one of the first things people will notice about you. Unfortunately, the same is true if your smile is damaged or unhealthy. From stains to bad breath, when you fail to exercise great dental preventive care of your teeth and gums, it shows, and sometimes smells. Thankfully, whether you’re proud of the smile you’ve got and want to keep it looking its best, or you know your smile could use some help, preventive care is the best way to give your smile the attention it deserves and the care it needs!
Like most people, are you concerned with the appearance of your smile? Few things can make you feel more confident than beautiful, pearly white teeth. But if you’re not also concerned with taking great care of your teeth and gums, the beauty of your smile will be short-lived. Preventive care, like dental checkups and cleanings, is a great way to take care of your oral health, so you can enjoy a great smile even as you age. There are also important preventive steps you can take at home, to keep your smile in tip top shape!
What is Dental Preventive Care of Your Teeth?
From the time you were little you have probably been taught to brush your teeth twice a day, and most adults find this part of an oral care routine simple enough to work into daily life. Unfortunately, many view flossing as an unnecessary part of the oral hygiene equation, and that is simply not true.
Flossing is crucial because it helps rid your mouth of bacteria and food particles that brushing leaves behind. When you fail to remove these, tartar and plaque can develop, which can wreak all kinds of havoc on an otherwise healthy smile.
To keep your smile looking and smelling its best, you should brush and floss daily. A plaque-fighting mouthwash can also help keep your mouth clean, as can gently brushing your tongue (where bacteria likes to hang out). Just keep in mind that if you have chronic bad breath it may be a sign of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Red and bleeding gums are other warning signs that you may have a problem.
Schedule a professional cleaning quickly if you notice these symptoms, as no amount of brushing or flossing can remove tartar buildup once it’s there. Only a professional cleaning can help remove it, and therefore, begin to restore your smile’s health.
Why Are Checkups So Important?
Many people wrongfully believe, or simply hope, that regular dental hygiene can prevent the need for dental visits. However, for the vast majority of patients, regular dental checkups are crucial for proper dental preventive care.
Even regular brushing and flossing is often not enough to completely prevent plaque buildup, and once it has calcified onto the teeth it can only be removed through a professional cleaning. Failing to have the plaque build up removed promptly is what often leads to cavities and even gum disease, which has become the leading cause of adult tooth loss in America. These are just a few of the compelling reasons most people need to visit the dentist at least twice a year to maintain healthy, much less beautiful, smiles.
Combine Care with Smart Choices for a Great Smile, Year Round
Maintaining a healthy smile throughout the year means combining daily hygiene at-home with regular preventive checkups. But it also means eating a well-balanced diet, in order to maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.
Not sure what a smile-healthy diet looks like? Here are some general guidelines:
- Fix your breath by eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, which are nutrient-rich and low in sugar and fat.
- Focus on lean protein sources, like poultry or beans.
- Add healthy fats to your diet, too, in the form of nuts, avocados, etc.
- Dairy products are rich in calcium, which is great for your teeth. Just make sure to choose non-sweetened varieties, or those with limited added sugar. This is especially important when selecting yogurts, which often come packed with cavity-causing added sugar.
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is one of the best things you can do for your smile!
- Water helps keep your mouth moist, which can prevent plaque buildup and also staining.
- Avoid sugary beverages like sweetened coffee, many juices, sodas, etc. Since you’re likely to sip on a drink for longer than you would eat a meal, the effects of sugar in your beverages can be particularly troublesome for your teeth. If you need something sweeter, consider dark chocolate. It has anti-cavity properties.
- Remember to schedule six-months checkups with your dentist as part of your dental preventive care to help keep your smile healthy.
Plaque removal is a big part of a dental preventive care
If you’re already brushing your teeth twice a day, your dental preventive care routine is already off to a great start. But that is not enough to prevent the plaque buildup that can lead to unsightly calculus deposits on your teeth, and even worse problems for your gums. Plaque is responsible for causing cavities and gum disease.
- To do so, add nightly flossing to your regimen.
- You should also gently brush your tongue, which is a hot spot for germs and a frequent cause of bad breath.
- If you notice you frequently have dry mouth, potentially due to medications, consider an oral rinse designed to help combat the dryness. Dry mouth can be a serious dental health issue, so don’t ignore it.
- Too much sugar in the mouth, or allowing it to remain there for long periods of time, gives plaque bacteria time to feed on the sugar, causing it to worsen. Prevent this by drinking water throughout the day, and limiting sweetened beverages including fruit juices, sports drinks, and, of course, sodas.
Your Diet Can Aid Your Dental Health
But what about the time you spend between brushings? Is there anything you can do to keep your smile healthy and your breath fresh? The good news is, yes. There are a lot of steps you can take to help your smile in the long run, and that can enable you to have fresh breath all day long.
Drinking lots of water is one crucial step to maintaining your oral health. Not only does it help your body break down bacteria and the sugars that bacteria feeds on, but water can also help rinse food and drinks from your teeth, to help prevent staining in between brushing. Because of their high water content, many fresh fruits and vegetables can have the same effect, not to mention keep you full and give your body the nutrients it needs. You should avoid chewing on highly acidic foods, like lemons, however, as these can do more harm than good.
Lastly, if you are going to have a mint or chewing gum to further freshen your breath, opt for sugar-free options, both as cavity prevention and to keep your gums in good health.
Brush Twice a Day for Healthy Teeth and Gums
Every adult knows he or she should brush teeth daily, but do you know the proper technique for brushing?
- You should use short, small strokes, and gentle pressure.
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle from your teeth.
- Brushing your teeth should take two minutes, so set a timer or use a song to signal to you when you’ve brushed sufficiently.
- Finally, don’t forget to brush your tongue, as this can be a hotspot for bacteria which can lead to bad breath.
Flossing Is No Small Feat
Flossing is often neglected, even by individuals with an otherwise excellent dental hygiene routine. Often that’s because people wrongly believe that if their teeth bleed during flossing, it’s the flossing’s fault. In truth, your gums will only bleed during flossing if you have already developed gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease.
If this is happening, you should begin regular flossing, but you will also need to schedule a dental checkup as soon as possible. Once plaque buildup has already calcified, it can only be remove during a professional cleaning. If you seek treatment quickly you can help prevent further dental problems, like cavities, and often reverse the signs of gum disease.
Fuel Your Body and Your Smile Wisely
Another simple way to care for your smile is to drink plenty of water, and to eat a well-balanced diet. This helps provide much-needed nutrients to your teeth and gums, and also keeps you from overindulging in sugary treats which can wreak havoc on an otherwise healthy smile.
If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your smile even after a dental checkup, consider asking your dentist about the benefits of cosmetic treatment like professional teeth whitening, which can erase stains and enhance your smile’s beauty!
Dr Fondriest is a Nationally recognized and highly sought after cosmetic dentist. He serves clients from throughout the United States