By Karen Cicero for I love my kids & Completely You
Dentists know how to make your teeth a perfect 10. But during a routine cleaning, there’s simply not enough time to go over all the strategies. That’s why we asked dentists to open wide about what they don’t have a chance to tell you in the office. Take notes!
Brush Better for a Better Smile
“If I asked 10 adults to brush their teeth in front of me, I’d find something wrong with nine of them,” says Marc Lazare, a dentist and the author of The Patient’s Guide to Dentistry. To maintain a flawless smile, remember:
- Brush twice and thoroughly. Some of Lazare’s patients tell him they brush four or five times a day. But the truth is they’re just quickly running a toothbrush through their mouth to get rid of bad breath. While there’s no harm in this, it shouldn’t replace a thorough brushing and flossing before bed. “Doing a quickie brushing after dinner isn’t good enough; you need a full, two- to three-minute brushing before bed to remove the bacteria that could wreak havoc on your teeth while you sleep,” he says.
- Brush your back teeth too. “I’ve noticed that some of my patients do a great job on their front teeth and seem to blow off their back ones,” says Lazare. Spend the same amount of time on each, he says, because bacteria left on one tooth can affect the health of your entire mouth.
- Pay attention to your canine teeth. When switching your brush from one side of your mouth to the other, it’s easy to skip your canine teeth (aka eye teeth). “Some lefties accidentally skip the eye tooth on the left side of their mouth, and righties do the same on the right side as they’re adjusting their toothbrush,” says Mark Messina, a family dentist in Fairview Park, Ohio.
- Don’t snap your floss. Your gums are delicate structures that help support your teeth. And they don’t take kindly to being flossed too hard. There’s no need to snap the floss down between teeth; instead, gently work it back and forth. Also avoid using a hard toothbrush, which could remove tooth enamel and hurt your gums. Go for a soft brush instead.
Eat and Drink Smarter
Some food and beverages that are healthy for your body aren’t so hot for your teeth. Find out what’s on and off the smile-saving menu.
- Go with iced coffee. “The hotter a beverage is, the more likely it is to stain your teeth,” says Lazare. So avoid sipping that steamy Starbucks. Instead, let it cool, or better yet, order the iced version. Pouring in milk also decreases the chances of staining — and pumps up the calcium that your teeth need. Teeth already stained? Consider at-home whitening strips.
- Rinse after raisins. “Sticky foods, like dried fruits, are just as unhealthy for your teeth as gummy bears,” says Messina. Even though the sugars in raisins are natural, they have the same effect on your teeth as the ones in candy; any sugar is food for the bacteria in your mouth to thrive on. You don’t have to avoid dried fruit, but brush (or, at the very least, rinse your mouth) afterward.
- Eat your snack already. Lingering with food (like popcorn at the movies, a bowl of nuts at the bar or a bag of pretzels in front of the TV) is a disaster for your teeth because the bacteria in your mouth get a steady supply of food. Instead, it’s better for your smile if you enjoy a snack — no matter what it is — for 10-15 minutes, says Lazare, rather than to nosh for an hour. Afterward, brush if possible or at least rinse your mouth with water.
- Make a sugar-free swap. Even sugar-free diet soda wreaks havoc on your teeth because it’s acidic. But chewing sugar-free gum made with xylitol is golden because it helps dislodge food particles that get stuck in between teeth, and it won’t be broken down into a bacteria-loving acid in your mouth.
Got more tips for how to get a better smile? Share them below