Keeping your teeth healthy at home.
As COVID-19 sweeps across the country, many dental offices have decided to close their doors for almost all appointments, taking only emergency visits. This measure is necessary to help limit the spread of the virus and to protect both the dental staff and patients, but it has left many families without access to dental care for the time being. While you wait for your next appointment, your family can take simple steps to protect their oral health and prevent existing issues from getting worse. Here are 10 ways you can keep your family’s teeth healthy when you don’t have access to dental care.
1. Pay extra attention to your oral hygiene.
Sticking to a great oral hygiene routine is the best way to protect your teeth from cavities and gum disease, so pay extra attention to it while you wait to see Dr. Sexton. This will help your family get a clean bill of health when you make it to the dentist, and it’s a good chance to instill healthy habits in your kids. Additionally, dental hygiene affects the health of your entire body—not just your mouth. A healthy mouth boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infections and viruses better, while an unhealthy mouth can lead to health issues throughout the body in both the short and long term.
2. Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day.
You should brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day to ensure that you’re doing a thorough job. When you brush your teeth, don’t forget to brush your tongue—just like your teeth, plaque will build up on your tongue, increasing your risk of tooth decay and gum disease if it’s not cleaned off regularly. If you have young kids, brushing your teeth as a family not only keeps teeth healthy now, it sets a habit in place for their lifetime, and allows you to keep an eye on them to ensure they’re doing a good job.
3. Choose your toothpaste and mouthwash carefully.
The toothpaste and mouthwash you use can make a huge difference in your oral health by playing an active role in preventing cavities and gum disease. They can each address different issues, from cavity prevention to whitening your teeth, but you should always choose products that contain fluoride. Fluoride helps prevent cavities by strengthening your teeth and remineralizing tooth enamel. A total care mouthwash also makes a great addition to your oral hygiene routine because it helps to strengthen your teeth, improve your breath, kill harmful germs in your mouth, prevent cavities, and restore tooth enamel. Since not all mouthwashes are intended to benefit your oral health, however, the ADA has placed its seal of acceptance on mouthwashes that do.
4. For healthy teeth, floss at least once a day.
Since flossing is tedious and takes a little time at first, it’s an often-overlooked part of many people’s oral hygiene routines—but it’s just as essential for a healthy mouth as brushing your teeth is! Floss reaches and cleans areas of your teeth and gums that you can’t reach with a toothbrush, so if you don’t floss, those areas simply won’t get cleaned. Skipping this part of your oral hygiene routine greatly increases your chances of getting gum disease as well as cavities. Once you get used to it, flossing doesn’t take long and it pays off in the long run. If you or your young child have difficulty flossing properly, water flossers are a great, easy-to-use alternative that won’t require you to twist your hands around as much.
5. Make your oral hygiene routine the last thing your family does before going to bed.
When you eat a snack or drink anything other than water right before bed, the sugars in that food sit on your teeth all night. As a result, you should always make sure that brushing and flossing your teeth is the last thing you do before bed. If you end up eating a snack afterwards, brush your teeth again before going to sleep. Baby teeth are particularly vulnerable to tooth decay because they have a thinner layer of protective enamel, so never send small children to bed with a sippy cup of juice or milk—just water.
6. Limit foods and drinks that aren’t good for your teeth.
Sugary and starchy foods fuel the bacteria in your mouth, so try to limit how much of these foods you eat while you wait for your next dental appointment. It’s better to snack on fruits and vegetables since they contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for your oral and overall health—plus, crunchy fruits and vegetables actually help remove plaque from your teeth as you chew! Similarly, sugary and acidic drinks like sodas and juices are harmful to your teeth if you drink them too often, so drink water throughout the day and save sugary drinks for meals or special occasions.
7. Find the right kind of toothbrush.
Brushing your teeth too hard or with abrasive materials can harm your enamel over time, so it’s best to use a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are good solutions for people who tend to brush too hard because most of them have a feature that prevents you from applying too much pressure, protecting your enamel from damage.
8. Replace your toothbrush often.
When toothbrushes begin to get old and frayed, they don’t clean your teeth as well and bacteria can begin growing in the bristles. Storing your toothbrush upright in an open-air container will help limit the growth of bacteria, but it’s best to replace your toothbrush every three or four months.
9. Quit smoking to improve your oral health.
Smoking is infamous for yellowing teeth over time, but it’s also bad for your oral health because it damages your immune system. This increases the likelihood that you’ll suffer from gum disease and makes it harder for you to heal from gum disease, dental procedures, and dental injuries. While quitting smoking can be very difficult, the benefits to your overall and oral health are well worth it.
10. Go the extra mile to keep existing cavities from getting worse.
If you already know you have a cavity, you should take each suggestion on this list seriously: stay away from sugary and starchy foods, drink water throughout the day, ditch your old toothbrush, use mouthwash at least once a day, and take the extra time to brush and floss your teeth thoroughly. This can slow the cavity’s growth so that it doesn’t get worse while you wait for access to treatment.
Staying on top of your dental routine at home can greatly improve your oral health, saving you money by preventing your family from needing as many dental procedures each year. Despite this, even perfect oral health habits aren’t a replacement for visiting the dentist, so it’s vital that you see a dentist as soon as you can. In the meantime, feel free to call our office if you have any questions about caring for your family’s oral health or rescheduling your appointment.