Forming lifelong habits to help keep your teeth and mouth healthy is easier when you think about smaller tasks that show up in everyday life. Here are some daily pointers to help keep those teeth cavity-free!
6. Watch the sugar in your coffee. This is a very common way for people to take in more sugar than they realize. If you have several cups a day and put a few packets of sugar in each one, you end up taking in more sugar than if you were drinking soda. Coffee drinks like lattes and mochas can have enormous amounts of sugar and if you sip them slowly throughout the day, you are bathing your teeth in cavity-causing carbohydrates for long periods of time. The best way to reduce sugar in beverages is to switch to sugar substitutes or drink your coffee black. Otherwise, try to rinse with water (or brush your teeth) after you finish your coffee. You can also keep a small bottle of Act or purple Listerine fluoride rinse around to rinse with throughout the day and help prevent cavities.
5. Use fluoride. Even in adulthood, fluoride is extremely beneficial to prevent new cavities from forming. Act mouthrinse and purple Listerine both have fluoride and your dentist can prescribe special toothpaste with a higher fluoride concentration. After brushing and flossing (or whenever you think of it), swish thoroughly with the mouthrinse or brush on the prescription toothpaste, and don't rinse, eat or drink for 1 hour after use.
4. Brush and floss twice a day. There's actually a sound scientific reason for this recommendation. After around 12 hours, bacterial growth on your teeth called biofilm starts to produce more acid that can cause cavities. It's also more difficult to remove since it has more time to grow and spread. Additionally, dental plaque can harden into tartar, or calculus, and is difficult to remove with regular brushing.
3. Consider a night or day mouthguard. You may notice yourself grinding or clenching your teeth. Additionally, a partner may let you know about nighttime grinding or your dentist might tell you that your teeth show signs of attrition, or wear from grinding. Either way, some people benefit by wearing bite guards (either at night or during the day) to prevent your teeth from coming into contact. They can also be helpful in reducing discomfort from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. You can purchase "boil and bite" bite guards from any drugstore or your dentist can fabricate a custom guard that fits your mouth specifically.
2. Brush your gums more than your teeth. Most plaque collects along the gumline, at the junction between gum and tooth. The most efficient way to brush is to hold your toothbrush so that half the bristles are on gum and half on teeth. Hold the brush so it's angled downward and you can picture the bristles reaching into the gum pockets that surround each tooth. Brush thouroughly but gently (to prevent gum recession), and don't forget the inside surfaces of your teeth and your back molars!
1. Go to regular dental visits. It's okay if it's been a while since your last appointment. It's never too late to get your mouth back on track! Once you're established at a dentist, be sure to go every 6 months for an exam and cleaning. Some cavities can be caught early and conservative treatment is much easier and less expensive.
Note: This blog is intended for general information and oral health education. No part of this post is meant to diagnose or treat any condition and all writing is the opinion of the author only. Dr. Katie-Rose Wagner is not affiliated with any companies, brands, publications, or commercial interests beyond her dental practice (Smiles By Rosie Family Dentistry, located in East Somerville).