A marvelous, movie star–quality smile might feel out of reach for most people, but healthy and attractive teeth are completely achievable with the help of a great dentist, the right tools, and a regular dental care routine.
Even if your teeth goals aren’t in the form of George Clooney–Esque pearly whites, it is still so important to take good care of your teeth consistently, including your morning and evening dental hygiene routine and scheduled dental and orthodontic checkups.
No matter your goals, regular care of your teeth is a must.
Start with a great oral hygiene routine
You’ve heard it since you were a child, but that’s because the best prevention against tooth decay and gum disease is proper oral care at home.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has several great resources available on its website, including a comprehensive list of oral care products that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance. These products include standard and electric toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and more, and they even have a handy shopping list just for children’s oral care.
You already know that you should brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes twice a day. Make sure you spend time on each tooth, front, back, and in between. You should also floss once a day. Some people choose to floss after brushing to get any spots the toothbrush couldn’t reach, while others choose to floss before to dislodge plaque and debris that your brush can then sweep away after. It’s up to you which you prefer, as long as you do floss. Follow that with some mouthwash to get the harder-to-reach spots around your mouth.
If you have children, teach them these steps so that they understand the importance of regular dental care. More importantly, lead by example and model these behaviors, letting them see that you take care of your teeth, too.
See your dentist at the recommended intervals
You learned as a child that you should see the dentist every six months for a regular checkup and teeth cleaning. And if you have children, you’re probably pretty proactive about making those appointments for them. But, like most adults, perhaps your own appointments have gotten a little fewer and further between.
Some adults just don’t know that these appointments should continue regularly after childhood, but most just feel too busy or even too afraid of the dentist to go twice a year. However, these visits are an important part of taking care of your teeth. Dentists, hygienists, and orthodontists are professionals trained not only to make your teeth look nice but also to identify potential problems before they grow into major issues. Tooth decay, gum disease, and even forms of heart disease and cancer can all be spotted by dental professionals and prevented with early intervention.
Make sure to see your dentist at the recommended intervals and to take their advice when caring for your teeth at home. This is also another great opportunity to model good tooth care for your children so they understand that dental appointments are an important, life-long process.
Seek orthodontic treatment and take care of equipment
We normally think of orthodontics and braces as kids’ stuff, but it’s never too late to take care of your teeth and jaws. For adults and children alike, orthodontics can be the key to a good-looking and healthy smile.
Orthodontic treatment isn’t strictly cosmetic, either. For example, crowding or crooked teeth can make cleaning your teeth at home extremely difficult, which can eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease, so seeking orthodontic treatment to correct that can actually help you take better care of your teeth and prevent illness. If your teeth are improperly aligned — also called malocclusion — it can cause undue stress on the jaw, which can lead to teeth wearing down unevenly, weak teeth, or pain and dysfunction related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Straight teeth even improve digestion!
So if you or your child struggles with crowding or gaps or generally crooked teeth, it’s worth speaking with an orthodontist about your options. There are many options available like traditional braces, Invisalign, and removable retainers. Of course, depending on your unique situation, your orthodontist will recommend the best treatment options, which might include more permanent appliances, though braces or removable Invisalign and retainers are much more common.
If you do get orthodontic treatment, you need to be careful to take care of your gear exactly as your orthodontist describes. Follow their guidelines for proper braces, retainer, or Invisalign care. This includes taking extra good care of your teeth because orthodontic equipment can trap food particles and foster bacteria growth. It will also include caring for the equipment itself, which usually means brushing retainers or Invisalign aligners when you brush your teeth.
Other things you can do for good oral health
There are many other ways you can take care of your teeth outside of the traditional methods we already know about, like paying attention to what you eat and drink or how you hold your jaw. Here are some extra steps you can take for good oral health:
If you eat or drink sugary beverages, gums, or candies, always be sure to follow it with water. This washes out the sugars that would otherwise sit on your teeth all day until your next brushing. Sugars promote bacteria growth, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
If you have structural issues in your jaw, face, or mouth, but don’t want to start with braces or other orthodontic equipment, look into basic myofunctional therapy. Myofunctional therapy can help correct postural or functional problems with chewing, swallowing, or lip and tongue resting postures, which can all have an impact on your dental health.
Remember to keep your mouth closed and breathe through your mouth as much as possible, and try to train yourself to do this even when you’re asleep. When your mouth hangs open, your saliva evaporates and underperforms at its job of cleaning out your mouth and teeth. This leaves your mouth open to bacterial growth, which causes tooth decay and gum disease.
Taking care of your teeth often feels like it comes in second to other medical concerns, but it’s very important for your overall health. There are lots of ways to take care of your teeth, but the most important is to see your dentist and brush and floss every day because regular care of your teeth is a must.