May is National Smile Month! Fittingly, here are ten ways that you can improve your oral health this month:
1. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. This one sounds simple, but are you actually brushing for the full two minutes? Make sure that you are giving your teeth a good, thorough brush twice a day. Additionally, use a toothpaste that has fluoride; all toothpastes that have the ADA seal of approval contain fluoride.
2. Floss at least once a day. Ideally you should floss even twice a day. Flossing is so important because it is the only way to remove the plaque that is left in between your teeth that brushing cannot reach. This plaque can cause cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath, and if left on your teeth plaque can calcify into tartar.
3. Add mouthwash to your daily routine. When used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, mouthwash can further improve your oral health by killing the bacterial plaque that causes cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. The ADA seal of approval is on many antiseptic mouthwashes such as Listerine and ACT.
4. Replace your toothbrush. The ADA recommends that you replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Toothbrushes lose their efficiency over time and can even start to house bacteria.
5. Eat your vegetables! Pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli all contain Vitamin A which is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel. Crunchy vegetables such as carrots and celery help clean the gums and produce saliva.
6. Chew sugar-free gum after meals. Chewing gum increases the flow of saliva which in turn rinses your teeth and protects them from decay. Choose a sugar-free gum like Orbit or one with xylitol like Trident.
7. Clean your tongue. This is essential to good oral hygiene. Cleaning your tongue removes bacteria that causes bad breath, tooth decay and gum problems. Use your toothbrush to brush your tongue or buy a tongue scraper.
8. Avoid tooth stainers. If you want to keep your smile bright avoid black tea, coffee, smoking, and dark foods (like spaghetti sauce).
9. Say no to sugary drinks. This means soda, sweet tea and many juices, and if you must drink it then use a straw. Sugar is so bad for your teeth because when dental plaque is mixed with sugar the bacteria that live in the plaque start the process of tooth decay and cause cavities. Cutting down on sugary drinks is the easiest way to prevent cavities- and it's healthier for you overall!
10. See your dentist regularly! It's so important to see your dentist for regular cleanings in order to maintain good oral health. You should get your teeth cleaned at a dental office twice a year or every 6 months. This can prevent problems, like gum disease, and fix ones, like small cavities, before they get out of control.