The importance of oral hygiene is no longer debatable. The proven link between oral wellness and heart health makes learning how to take care of your teeth in-between dental appointments crucial. While visiting the dentist regularly is a great step in maintaining good oral health, it’s your responsibility to maintain proper oral wellness between appointments. How do you do that? And why is it important to take care of your teeth?
Here are the answers to 15 of the most frequently asked questions about how to take proper care of teeth:
1. How Can I Prevent Cavities?
Cavities form when bacteria eat away at a tooth’s protective layer — its enamel. When you eat or drink anything containing sugar, you’re giving the bacteria in your mouth a treat because they love this substance. That’s why it’s incredibly important to brush your teeth after consuming anything with sugar, such as candy, soda and even fruits. To fully scrub away the bacteria, you should brush for several minutes and avoid applying too much pressure, which can injure your gums.
If you’re unable to brush your teeth, rinsing your mouth with water is a valid alternative, as is chewing sugar-free gum. Chewing gum is an especially effective option when you can’t brush because the gum forces your mouth to create more saliva, which naturally helps eliminate oral bacteria.
Flossing is also crucial since it’s the only way to thoroughly clean out the bacteria between your teeth. You should floss at least once every day to maintain a healthy mouth.
2. What Does a Cavity Feel Like?
If your cavity is in its very early stages and only on the surface, you may not be able to tell it’s there. Regular dental checkups are important in this case since your dentist will have the tools and experience to spot and treat a cavity before it shows any symptoms.
If the cavity has progressed, you’ll likely begin feeling some discomfort doing things like biting, chewing food or drinking liquids. You may also develop sensitivity to extreme temperatures or experience bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
In some cases, you may even be able to feel the cavity in your tooth with your tongue or spot it when you look in the mirror. When it comes to how to take care of cavity teeth, the best method is to see a dentist as soon as you feel something may be wrong. Aside from that, having regular dental checkups will help your dentist spot any issues before they get too serious.
3. How Do I Brush Properly?
Even though we’ve been brushing since we had teeth to brush, some people may not be cleaning their teeth the way they should. A common mistake is to brush left to right. Instead, dentists recommend brushing vertically — meaning up and down — by moving the brush in tiny circular motions starting at the gumline.
Because plaque is fairly loose, you don’t need to scrub extra hard to get a suitable clean. Applying soft pressure consistently for several minutes is adequate for getting a clean mouth. The toothbrush you choose also impacts how well you brush, with softer bristles generally being better for your teeth and gums than harder ones.
4. How Do I Floss?
Flossing is the only way to get the tiny areas between your teeth clean at home, so it’s important to floss at least once a day. Flossing is best done after brushing your teeth. This way, it can target the tiny pieces of food and bacteria that may be hiding between your teeth and under the gums.
Start flossing from the back bottom teeth by gently inserting the floss and moving it upward. Do this for the spaces between every bottom tooth and then repeat the process for the top teeth.
Be careful to take your time and floss properly between the teeth and just under the gums without going too far down, which can make your gums bleed.
5. Should I Use Mouthwash?
Ideally, you should conclude your oral hygiene routine with mouthwash since it is great for killing any lingering bacteria as well as leaving your mouth feeling fresh. There are several mouthwash varieties from which to choose. If you’re at a loss for where to start, discuss different brands and ingredients with your dentist to find the one that suits your budget and health needs.
Using mouthwash is quick and simple and requires you to swish a small amount of the liquid for a few minutes before spitting it out. No need to rinse your mouth afterward.
6. How Often Should I Change My Toothbrush?
It’s important to replace your toothbrush regularly since using the same brush for too long causes the bristles to fray. Frayed bristles are unable to properly clean your teeth, no matter how long you brush. Toothbrushes should be replaced approximately every three months — or sooner if you find the brush has become discolored, or the bristles are especially frayed.
If you use an electric toothbrush instead of a manual one, read the instructions that came with the toothbrush. They will explain how often the brush head should be changed. Chances are, you may not have to swap out electric toothbrush heads as often as you would need to change a manual toothbrush.
7. Should I Brush My Tongue?
There’s no harm in brushing your tongue, and some dentists even recommend all patients do so. By brushing your tongue, you’ll scrape off any food particles or bacteria that may have set up camp in your mouth. The fewer bacteria present in your mouth, the better, so brushing your tongue is definitely more useful than not brushing it. You can use a toothbrush or a tongue scraper to clean your tongue.
Plus, brushing your tongue is also a quick and easy way to get rid of bad breath.
8. Is It Okay to Smoke?
When it comes to learning how to take care of teeth, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do. Numerous studies have proven how smoking is detrimental to nearly every single organ in the body, and more and more research is proving its negative effect on oral health. Tobacco use — be it via smoking, vaping or chewing — is linked to gum disease and various cancers. About 75% of gum disease cases in adults result from smoking.
While smoking itself is harmful to your oral health, causing stained teeth and bad breath, any form of tobacco is bad for your mouth, including cigars and chewing tobacco. Plus, those who smoke may not be good candidates for certain dental procedures, such as implants. People who smoke are advised to look into quitting since that’s the only way to reduce the chances of gum disease and oral cancer for smokers.
9. What Foods Increase Tooth Decay?
Sugary foods are the main culprit for tooth decay. These include foods with natural sugar, like certain fruits, as well as those that manufacturers add sugar to, such as desserts and snack foods. Since the bacteria that already exist in your mouth — the good kind — love sweets as much as most humans do, they cling to the sugar and create acid that deteriorates the tooth.
While it’s always a good idea to reduce the amount of sugar you eat or drink, you can avoid tooth decay even while indulging in sugary foods if you brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once daily and visit your dentist for regular checkups.
10. Can Fluoride Help Stop Tooth Decay?
Fluoride is an excellent way to help prevent tooth decay since it gives teeth the protection they need. Fluoride is so effective at tackling tooth decay that it can even help reverse decay once it has already started. Getting fluoride can be as easy as drinking tap water in many cases, but there are also some kinds of toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride for those who may need more of it.
Fluoride is useful for all teeth, including baby teeth, to help prevent and reverse the effects of tooth decay.
11. How Can Parents Help Prevent Tooth Decay?
Knowing how to take care of baby teeth is the first step for parents who want to set their kids up on the path to excellent oral health. Children should begin visiting a dentist as soon as their first teeth come in. The dentist can make sure the child’s mouth is healthy and guide parents on the best plan of action for their child.
The dentist will also help parents teach their children how to take care of their teeth and gums, including how to guide kids with brushing, how to supervise brushing and flossing and how to check children’s mouths for any signs of problems.
12. Do I Still Need to See a Dentist If My Teeth Feel Fine?
No matter how well you care for your teeth, you’ll still need to visit your dentist for checkups since there are certain issues and conditions only a professional can spot. Sometimes you may not notice anything different in your teeth, and they may feel and look fine, but only a dentist’s trained eye can confirm that.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to visit the dentist for regular cleanings since there will likely always be tiny particles of food or stubborn plaque you can’t clean off at home without the necessary tools. The dentist can also give you more advice on how to properly take care of your teeth.
Another reason to make regular dental visits the norm is to ensure your smile stays healthy and attractive. If any problems do occur, regular dental checkups will allow the dentist to spot them early and fix them before they worsen. You might also opt for cosmetic procedures to improve your smile, such as teeth whitening or braces.
13. If I Have Braces, Do I Still Need Dental Checkups Every Six Months?
Regular dental checkups are the cornerstone of taking care of your teeth with braces. It’s crucial to have regular appointments when you’re wearing braces — likely more often than every six months — since it is much harder to clean your teeth properly.
Food has a better chance of getting caught around the brackets and wires, making it difficult to clean off with a toothbrush and even harder to floss out. If left to linger, the food particles can grow bacteria, which can lead to all sorts of issues, like cavities and gingivitis.
Your dentist and orthodontist will work to figure out the ideal treatments for you, which will include deciding how often you should come in for checkups and ensuring your teeth remain healthy while receiving orthodontic treatment.
14. What Are Some Signs I Should See a Dentist?
A good rule of thumb is to visit your dentist as soon as you feel something is not right with your mouth. This issue can be something as seemingly harmless as having a bad taste in your mouth to a problem as severe as a chipped or broken tooth.
If your teeth are suddenly sensitive to certain foods or temperatures, your gums seem puffy or bleed when brushing or flossing or you develop pain in your jaw, be on the safe side and visit your dentist so they can check it out.
If you have a family history of oral disease or are currently living with a health condition like diabetes or HIV, make regular dental checkups a part of your routine to ensure good oral health. Oral issues aren’t only related to the gums and teeth, so if you find any new growths anywhere in your mouth, have trouble swallowing or experience pain along your jaw or neck, bring it up to your dentist. They can then recommend whether you should see your family doctor.
Alternately, if your oral health is great, but you’re dissatisfied with a cosmetic aspect, reach out to your dentist to explore potential cosmetic surgery options, such as teeth straightening or whitening.
15. Why Is Visiting the Dentist so Important?
Oral health is about more than just clean and healthy teeth. More and more research shows how oral health directly affects your physical and mental wellness, which makes brushing your teeth as important as being physically and mentally active. There are many benefits to regular dental checkups. These advantages include learning how to take care of crown teeth, how to take care of broken teeth, how to prevent gum disease and tooth decay and how to improve your smile.
Book a Dental Appointment With Family Dentistry of New Jersey
Maintaining proper oral health is more than something to do just before your dental checkup. It’s a lifelong commitment to your overall health and well-being, and visiting the dentist is only one part of it.
At Family Dentistry of New Jersey, we’re passionate about helping you and your family maintain excellent oral health, sport brilliant smiles and feel better about yourselves. We offer a range of services, from pediatric dentistry to cosmetic dentistry and routine cleanings.