Whether you care to admit it or not, you’re bound to eat more treats now that we’ve entered the month of October. If you’re not immune to the allure of candy apples, cider, donuts, candy, and all sorts of sweet concoctions, we’ve got some emergency teeth-saving tips for you to implement. Taking care of your teeth doesn’t have to be an expensive, appointment-made endeavor, nor does it have to be a treatment, per say. If you feel like you’re only taking notice of your oral hygiene when problems arise, that’s perhaps the biggest problem of all. Here, we’ve compiled a range of preventative and curative measures to keep your tooth enamel (the hard white part that you actually see) healthy and strong all-season long. After all, you want your teeth to be white and straight, but neither of those things matter if the foundation is weak. Strong, healthy tooth enamel is key to a great smile.
Be Picky About Toothpaste
Not all toothpastes are created equal. To fortify and protect your teeth, use a brand that contains fluoride; it helps rebuild weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of decay, the American Dental Association says. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that a toothpaste which contained sodium chloride, dissolved calcium, phosphate, and fluoride ions was able to reduce the drop in tooth enamel hardness due to soda consumption by a little over three percent when used as a protective treatment and it increased the hardness of soda-weakened enamel by 12 percent when used as a restorative treatment. When shopping for toothpaste, look for remineralizing ones or brands with the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance to make sure it contains fluoride.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum
There is merit to chewing gum after all. According to information provided by the American Dental Association, chewing (in general) increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. And if you chew gum after eating, this additional saliva supplies extra enamel-strengthening calcium and phosphate, and it can help neutralize and wash away any acids produced when the bacteria in your mouth was breaking down food. You want to get rid of this acid because it can chip away at your tooth enamel. What’s more, research has shown chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can help prevent tooth decay. Look for gum that specifically says it contains active agents that can remineralize teeth, and reduce decay, plaque, and gingivitis. Note: The only gum that has the ADA Seal are sugarless varieties because they’re sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners like aspartame, sorbitol, or mannitol.
Avoid Sugar and Starch
“Foods that cling to your teeth for a long time—such as milk, ice cream, honey, sugar, soda, dried fruit, cake, cookies, hard candy, breath mints, dry cereal, and chips—are more likely to cause decay than foods that are easily washed away by saliva,” according to information provided by the Mayo Clinic. Anything high in sugar and starch is harmful because it creates bacteria on your teeth, which attacks your enamel—namely because the bacteria feeds on these compounds. When this happens, acid is produced, which causes discoloration, sensitivity, and weakness in your enamel. You want to look out for high-acidic foods and foods that combine acid and sugar like sour candies. These have high amounts of citric acid, which can cause extensive damage to your enamel. Other culprits include gummy, tacky, and hard candies that stay in your mouth for longer, exposing your enamel to more acid and sugar, and can sometimes damage your teeth if they require breaking, cracking, or chewing.
Improve Your Nutritional Intake
Your body can strengthen weak enamel itself if you eat fortifying foods. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese have the necessary calcium and phosphorous to strengthen and remineralize tooth enamel (just be sure to brush after); plus they promote saliva secretion, which has a preventative effect against bacteria and helps balance your mouth’s pH level. Celery is an abrasive food, meaning its high fiber content helps protect your enamel by cleaning the surface; in fact, the chewing process promotes salivia secretion and massages your gums as well. Strawberries are naturally full of vitamin C and antioxidants, which promote overall oral health, but its malic acid is the winner here as it helps whiten your teeth and remove harmful tartar from your enamel. And this may surprise you, but animal protein like chicken and beef is good for healthy tooth enamel because it contains phosphorous, calcium, and magnesium, too.
To keep your tooth enamel strong, the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day (also after eating any of the aforementioned foods that harm your enamel) with a soft-bristled brush. Replace your brush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed. And, most importantly, use proper technique. You want to keep your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums, using short (tooth-wide) back-and-forth motions as you brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. To reach the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes, and take care to brush your tongue, too. This will remove bacteria and keep your breath fresher for longer. Routinely use floss to remove plaque, food, and bacteria between your teeth, and visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and exams.
Note: Go easy on your teeth. Brushing too hard or fast can wear down your enamel. So, too, can brushing your teeth immediately after eating sweets or high-acid foods like citrus. These harmful foods soften your enamel, making it easier for your to damage your teeth; wait up to an hour before you clean.
Treat Gastrointestinal Issues
The processes and functions in your body are more interrelated than you think. If you get severe heartburn, the escaping stomach acid can reach your mouth and seriously damage your teeth. Talk to your doctor about treating your condition and finding viable remedies.
According to the Mayo Clinic, teeth grinding or bruxism is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth sometimes even unconsciously during the day or at night. Over time, this can wear down your tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your teeth. Some teeth may even become flattened, fractured, or chipped because of the bad habit. Talk to your dentist if you know you have a grinding habit, or if he/she detects you do; there are custom-fitted guards that can protect your teeth.