Whether it’s a first date or a job interview, your smile makes a big impression. And a healthy smile tells you a lot about a person’s overall health.
The truth is, your teeth do a lot of hard work for you. So if you want to live your life to the fullest, it helps to have strong teeth backing you up.
Not sure where to begin? Here are 12 tips to help you build a stronger, healthier smile one day at a time.
1. Don’t Skip Brushing
Your first line of defense against any dental health problem is one you’re intimately familiar with: brushing.
You should brush your teeth twice a day: once in the morning after breakfast and again after dinner. This will help remove most of the bacteria from your meals before it has a chance to harden into plaque.
2. Brush Properly
It’s not enough just to brush (though some brushing is better than nothing). You need to make sure you’re brushing properly.
In fact, most people make the same brushing mistakes, including:
- Brushing too hard (this wears out your tooth enamel)
- Choosing the wrong toothbrush (it needs soft bristles to get under your gums)
- Not brushing long enough (you should brush for two minutes, dedicating 30 seconds to each quadrant of your mouth)
- Going back and forth (use a circular, massaging motion instead)
- Neglecting the gum line
Not sure where to start? Ask your dentist! They’ll be more than happy to give you a rundown on the proper brushing technique.
3. Take Care of Your Toothbrush
We tend to take our toothbrushes for granted. But your toothbrush does a lot of work to keep your teeth healthy, and you need to know when it’s reached the end of its life.
As a rule, you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months. But you should replace it sooner if the bristles are frayed or bent–once this happens, your toothbrush isn’t cleaning your teeth as well.
You should also replace it if you’ve recently been sick. Remember, there are up to 700 different species of bacteria that can live in the human mouth, though most people have between 34 and 72 predominant species.
Much of this bacteria is helpful to humans and has evolved to live symbiotically with us for generations. But some of it (like the bacteria you acquire when you’re sick) is harmful, and you don’t want that bacteria lingering on your toothbrush.
4. Use Enamel-Strengthening Toothpaste
It’s not just the brush, but what you brush with.
Many of us turn to toothpaste to whiten our teeth or freshen our breath. But toothpaste’s original purpose was to protect our dental health and keep our teeth healthy, much like soap keeps our hands clean.
The best kinds of toothpaste contain fluoride, which you might recognize from childhood dental treatments. Every day, teeth gain and lose minerals in their enamel through demineralization and remineralization. Too much demineralization without sufficient remineralization leads to tooth decay.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that must be added back to your tooth enamel to protect it against decay. This is why dentists use fluoride, and why you should use fluoride toothpaste.
If you’re not sure where to turn, look for toothpastes that are designed for enamel protection. Your dentist can often recommend a good brand.
5. Floss Daily
Every time you visit the dentist, they ask if you floss. Most of us are lying when we say yes–only about 28% of Canadians floss five times per week.
Even if you’re good about brushing, a lack of regular flossing leaves your teeth a lot dirtier than you think.
Every tooth has five surfaces. Brushing can only hit three of them, which means you’re leaving about 40% of the bacteria on your teeth unattended. That leaves you at an elevated risk of gum disease, gingivitis, and other nasty dental issues.
To floss, take a piece of floss and wrap it around your tooth in a C shape, polishing the tooth thoroughly on each side. Don’t worry about a bit of bleeding–that means your gums are inflamed and plaque needs to be scrubbed away.
Bleeding normally stops after a few days of consistent flossing. If it persists, though, call your dentist to check for periodontal disease.
6. Don’t Neglect Your Tongue
Your mouth is a major source of bacteria, especially your tongue. That’s not the issue, as some of this bacteria is actually better for your health.
The bigger issue? It smells bad.
That’s because a lot of bacteria living in your mouth (including those on your tongue) are anaerobic, which means they don’t need oxygen to survive. Even when they’re helping you, these anaerobic bacteria create various byproducts that can smell downright terrible (thanks, sulfur compounds!)
To that end, don’t neglect your tongue in your twice-daily dental hygiene routine. Fortunately, the tongue-cleaning process is pretty simple.
Just take the toothbrush you normally use on your teeth and give your tongue a good scrub.
If you have a strong gag reflex, you may find a tongue scraper less intrusive, but you do need to make sure you clean your tongue scraper. Otherwise, stick to a toothbrush.
7. Use Mouthwash
Many people neglect mouthwash because they don’t know what purpose it serves.
Mouthwash accomplishes three things:
- Kills bacteria in hard-to-reach places
- Reduces the acid levels in your mouth, protecting your teeth
- Remineralizes your teeth
Plus, it can help with a persistent bad breath problem.
However, mouthwash should be used in conjunction with your normal dental hygiene routine and not as a replacement for regular brushing and flossing.
That said, in children or older people (whose ability to brush or consistency in doing so isn’t ideal) mouthwash can be a great way to pick up the slack.
8. Drink More Water
Your dentist has been telling you to stop drinking soda for years. It’s about time to start listening.
Unfortunately, some of your favorite drinks are weakening your teeth. These include:
- Coffee (especially black coffee)
- Tea (the hue of the tea generally indicates the color stain it will leave)
- Red wine
- Soda (sugar + acidic carbonation = party time for the bacteria in your mouth)
As a rule, if a food or drink leaves a stain that’s difficult to get out of clothes, it will be equally difficult to get out of your teeth.
Instead, reach for water. Not only does it keep you hydrated, but it also helps wash away any lingering bacteria and stain-causing remnants of your latest meal.
9. Reach for Calcium-Rich Foods
Fun fact: the food you eat can give you healthy teeth.
The best candidates? Calcium-rich foods.
Calcium is vital to strong teeth because it helps to remineralize your enamel and gives your bones the necessary building blocks. Calcium can be found in:
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Brown rice
- Beans and lentils
- Certain greens (kale and collard greens)
If you want stronger teeth, a great place to start is a glass of milk with breakfast. If you’re a diehard cereal lover, you’re already one step ahead (just make sure you’re not eating sugary cereals).
11. Get Regular Dental Cleanings
It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to save money on dental care is to get regular dental cleanings.
Your everyday habits are vital to your dental health, but even the best brushers and flossers still need to visit the pros at least twice per year.
Your dentist can perform several hygiene tasks that you can’t do on your own, such as removing calculus buildup. They can also check for any cavities, check the health of your gums, and help you handle any potential problems before they become serious (and expensive) health issues.
If your dental insurance covers more frequent checkups, there’s no harm in taking them–especially if you have a prior history of dental health problems or poor hygiene habits.
12. Protect Your Teeth from Damage
Finally, it’s important that you take steps to protect your teeth from damage.
Sports are great for your body, but they can also wreak havoc on your teeth. And if you lose teeth as an adult, you’re not growing them back. This can cause serious issues down the line, as your teeth help maintain the structural integrity of your face and jawline.
Whenever you play sports, make sure to wear a mouth guard. Most schools require children to wear them, but you should also wear them during unsupervised recreational activities.
Remember: it’s better to be overly cautious than pay a few thousand dollars for a dental procedure.
However, protecting your teeth from damage also extends to how you use your teeth. If you use your teeth for anything other than eating and drinking (i.e. opening bottles, opening packaging, or cracking nuts) you risk chipping or cracking your teeth.
The solution is easy: don’t use your teeth for anything other than eating or drinking. They’re a precious resource. Treat them like it.
Want to Ensure You Have Strong Teeth?
Even if you have strong teeth, your teeth need protection. And for that, you need a great dental insurance plan.
You’ve come to the right place–we offer all kinds of provincial health plans so that you can find exactly the right plan to fit your life, whatever your price range may be.
Got questions? We’ve got answers. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.