If you’re like me you, you absolutely despise the dentist. She could be the nicest, most cheerful person on Earth, and while in her chair, I’ll be grinning and bearing it as if it were actual torture. As a result, I always preface my appointments with the fact that I don’t mean to be frigid, but in the case of my teeth—and the prospect of sharp tools drilling into them—I simply can’t be held accountable.
In an effort to boost my oral health and reduce the amount of time I spend white-knuckling it through routine cleanings (at best) and fillings (at worst), I chatted with a few dentists to learn the top five things they do every day for healthy, happy gums and teeth. Keep scrolling for the habits that they’re making happen every. single. day.
1. Brush three times daily (and floss after each meal): “I always use a soft toothbrush and make sure to spend at least two minutes every time I brush,” Dr. Sulitzer says. “While most people know that brushing and flossing can keep your teeth clean, some people don’t know that brushing at least three times a day and flossing once a day can reduce chronic inflammation of the gums and support tooth structures. This is important since chronic inflammation in the mouth in the form of gum disease is very similar to what happens in the rest of the body with chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies over the past 15 years have shown that if patients reduce the chronic inflammation that gum disease causes by having good oral hygiene, they can also have a positive effect on their diabetic, heart and overall health condition by reducing the inflammation that is caused by gum disease in the mouth.”
2. Use fluoride toothpaste and plaque-reducing mouthwash: “Not all oral care products are created the same and just as we look at food labels, we should look at the labels and ingredients of anything we’re putting in our mouths,” Dr. Sulitzer says. “It’s easy to get distracted by whitening and buzzwords on packaging.”
3. Drink lots of water: “Water is always the best choice of drink for both oral and overall health,” Dr. Sulitzer reminds. “Drinking water with and after every meal can help rinse between brushes.”
4. Limit sugar and eat calcium-rich foods for healthy, white teeth: “Foods that contain phosphorus, such as meat, eggs, and fish, can help keep tooth enamel strong and healthy—cheese, nuts, and green vegetables are also teeth-friendly foods,” says Dr. Sulitzer. “I limit the intake of sugary foods and drinks, as the bacteria normally found in your mouth feed on sugar from these and cause decay and staining.”
5. Go to the dentist regularly: “As a dental professional, many people think I can self-diagnose and do my own cleanings, but it’s still crucial for me to schedule regular cleanings and check-ups every six months to maintain optimal oral health,” explains Dr. Sulitzer.
Marc Lowenberg, DDS, cosmetic dentist at Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in NYC
1. Schedule deep cleanings at the dentist: “It’s important to regularly get deep cleanings at the dentist, ideally one to two times a year,” Dr. Lowenberg says. “Dentists are able to clean under the tissue and small areas that at-home brushing and flossing don’t reach. This will help eliminate the smell that is caused by decay and debris that are left behind for extended periods of time. Additionally, it will help to treat any dental issues before they progress further and prevent any new issues from forming.”
2. Floss every day: “You should ideally floss one time a day, but the healthiest mouths are those that floss after every meal,” says Dr. Lowenberg. “Flossing daily is necessary for healthy gums because it dislodges food that is stuck between the teeth where a brush cannot reach. Food debris caught between teeth can cause bad breath and other serious dental problems. Run the floss along the tooth structure in the shape of a C rather than just snapping quickly between each tooth.” To add extra flair to your flossing regimen, add a spindle of Cocofloss Wild Hibiscus ($30) to your oral routine.
3. Brush with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide: “Baking soda is a natural dentifrice with a very low abrasive quality, so when mixed with hydrogen peroxide, the oxygen released helps to break up the stain that sits on the enamel surface,” explains Dr. Lowenberg.
4. Try oil pulling: “Oil pulling, a trend that has been big over the past few years, has been shown to reduce inflammation by combining the fat-soluble toxins found in the mouth (a byproduct of bacterial dental plaque) with sesame, sunflower, or coconut oil,” notes Dr. Lowenberg. “Results of oil pulling include fresher breath, whiter teeth, and reduction of bleeding gums while flossing.” Hot tip: If you want to try oil pulling, check out Kopari Coconut Oil Pullers ($28).
5. Always floss and brush before bed: “Make sure you floss and brush before bedtime because if you leave food debris between teeth overnight the bacteria will have a feast on the debris and start the decaying process,” Lowenberg warns. “Additionally, do not drink cavity-causing liquids like sodas before bedtime.”
Lawrence Fung, DDS, founder of Silicon Beach Dental
1. Brush, floss, and rinse twice daily: “I practice good but basic oral hygiene that I always preach to my patients,” Dr. Fung explains. “I brush at least twice daily (my main squeeze is Hello Sensitivity Relief Fluoride Toothpaste, $6), floss daily, and use a mouthwash after brushing. I love how it’s alcohol-free so it doesn’t burn, but it’s refreshing with farm-grown peppermint, and tea tree oil.”
2. Rinse with water after meals: “After eating food and drinking anything that stains easily, I rinse my mouth with water,” Dr. Fung says. “That helps remove surface stains before they get a chance to set. This includes wine, coffee, and even food like pasta with turmeric sauce. It’s delicious and healthy, but turmeric does stain the teeth.”
3. Eat lots of fibrous foods: “Fibrous foods help clean my teeth naturally,” Dr. Fung notes. “I’m always crunching on celery and apples.”
4. Schedule a check up every six months: “To keep my teeth and gums healthy, I see my dentist buddies for a checkup and professional teeth cleaning every six months,” Dr. Fung says. “This way they can catch any cavities that are forming and remove any plaque build-up that traps bad smells, which leads to bad breath, and can cause gingivitis.”
5. Chew xylitol gum: “I chew gum with xylitol, a natural sweetener that helps kill cavity-causing bacteria,” says Dr. Fung. “It also keeps my breath fresh, which is very important as I’m very close to patients’ faces every day.”
While you’re at it, you might want to check out the 6 terrible-for-your-teeth foods dentists want you to stop eating, as well as the ballerina workout you can do while brushing.
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