These 7 dental wellness ideas can help you maintain a healthy and brighter smile for when you’re not in your dentist’s chair.
If you’re anything like us, you’re always looking for an at-home hack to better your wellness routines or even your financial life. And surprisingly, the two are connected — the more proactive and conscious we are about our health and wellness, typically the lower our medical bills are.
Dental routines are no different. Of course, prioritizing twice-daily brushing is one of the best ways to avoid cavities. But there are many other easy ways to up the ante — and promote an even healthier, brighter smile. (Not to mention, two thumbs up from your dentist when you take advantage of your dental insurance plan’s twice-yearly cleaning benefit!)
Here are 7 dental wellness ideas to incorporate in your day-to-day. You can start working on these habits as early as today!
7 dental wellness tips
1.) Avoid sharing utensils with others.
It’s tempting to split a meal or drink with some of your closest friends or family. But when you do, avoid sharing straws or utensils. It’s not because you don’t like them — it’s because their oral bacteria can spread while you’re indulging in your favorite foods together. (Talk about a way to lose your appetite.)
2.) Try tongue scraping.
With constant talk about the importance of teeth, it’s easy to forget that your tongue is a key player for your oral health. It's in contact with every part of your mouth and can spread debris on your teeth and gums. Though a tongue scraper might sound intimidating, it’s easy and painless. The tool is designed to gently glide from the back of your tongue to the front to remove particles and bacteria that have been trapped.
3.) Maintain a healthy diet.
This one’s fairly predictable, we know. But it’s arguably the most important! Making healthful food choices impacts not only your oral health, but your overall health too. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be careful with your coffee and soda consumption. Coffee and soda are acidic, which can contribute to discoloration and wear on your enamel (the outer layer of your teeth). The best way to avoid this is to drink water. But in those times when you need a cup of caffeine, try using a straw and brushing your teeth about 45 minutes after consumption.
- Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables. Incorporating these foods into your diet will help you get more fiber and can actually clean your teeth naturally.
- Limit sugar. You’ve heard this one before. But did you ever know why? Sugar converts into acid in the mouth. And like coffee and soda, it can wear down tooth enamel.
- Prioritize your calcium and vitamin D intake. Eating foods like yogurt and cheese, and getting safe sun exposure can all contribute to better oral health.
- Drink water. Staying hydrated can dilute sugars in your saliva, clear bacteria, and keep your mouth feeling fresh between brushes. (Among many other benefits.)
4.) Wear a night guard.
A night guard is similar to a retainer — it‘s a hard or soft plastic piece that covers your biting surfaces and can be worn on your top or bottom set of teeth. A night guard is custom-molded to ensure an effective, comfortable fit. (Note: while similar, this isn’t the same thing as a sports mouth guard. Those should only be worn for a short period of time to protect your teeth from trauma.)
A night guard essentially protects your teeth from grinding against each other while you sleep. This can cause enamel erosion, sensitive teeth, wear on any fillings you may have, and weak teeth. Think you might need a night guard? Here are a few reasons to get one, which can be purchased using your HSA (health savings account) or FSA (flexible spending account) dollars.
- Night guards can prevent temporomandibular joint disorder, more commonly known as TMJ. This can lead to difficulty and pain while chewing, pain in and around your ears, and jaw locking. Wearing a night guard can ease this tension and prevent development of the disorder.
- Night guards can also help prevent headaches, especially chronic ones. With a night guard, you don’t have to tense up your muscles that can cause seemingly never-ending discomfort.
- Night guards can end up saving you money by helping you avoid the cost of restorative dental procedures, TMJ management, and other dental problems. Though custom-fitted ones can cost a few hundred dollars, it can wind up saving you thousands of dollars (and headaches over a lifetime).
5.) Know your cavity risk level.
There are some people that go their entire life without getting a cavity — for others, it seems like the mere sight of a sweet treat sends them right in the dentist’s X-ray chair. This concept is known as your cavity risk level. The best way to determine yours is through regular (twice-yearly), routine visits to the dentist. And if you’re covered through a low-cost dental insurance plan like this one, you don’t have to pay additional out-of-pocket costs.
No matter if you’re high or low risk, your dentist will be able to make custom recommendations for a more specific, effective approach to your care routine. (Like the best toothpaste on the market and a better choice mouthwash.) That way you’ll be able to manage your oral health with confidence, knowing you’re making the most ideal choices for your personal situation.
6.) Brush your teeth. (Properly.)
While you might have your two minute, twice-daily brushing routine down pat, double check to make sure you’re brushing with these tips from the American Dental Association.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. Or consider an electric toothbrush, which is known to clean teeth and gums better than a manual toothbrush. Make sure the size and shape of your brush allows you to reach all areas easily. (Especially for children.)
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, gently moving the brush back and forth in short strokes.
- Don’t skip out on the backs of your teeth — brush the outer surfaces, inner surfaces, and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Use the tip of your brush to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and help freshen your breath.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or when you begin to see the bristles fray.
7.) Don’t forget to floss.
Flossing is just as important as brushing. It’s about so much more than just getting that piece of spinach out of your teeth — flossing can reduce inflammation, plaque, and help prevent dental disease.
It’s a small addition to your routine that can make a big impact. Try flossing at a designated time each day (such as in the morning, after a meal, or before bed) to help get the habit to stick.
Though dental care might seem like a lot to manage, the easy, intentional habits you create really do make a difference. Maybe it’s choosing an apple over that piece of cake you’re eyeing — or maybe it’s flossing each night before bed. (Or maybe both!) One thing’s for sure: when you prioritize your dental insurance’s benefit of no additional cost, twice-annual visits to the dentist, you’re able to get the best understanding of your oral and overall health. From custom recommendations to learning your cavity risk level, it’s an empowering thing to know how to take care of your teeth in the most optimal way — for your healthiest smile yet.