Are you do everything you can to safeguard and protect your smile? At Raleigh Dental Arts we believe in empowering patients with the resources they need to have healthy smiles for life. Even if you don’t have a lot of dental problems, there are some smart things you can do each day to protect your teeth and gums. Here are some simple, everyday steps you can take to lower your risk of preventable dental problems.
#1 – Invest in an Athletic Mouthguard to Protect Your Smile
Are you involved in any type of recreational athletic activity? Then you need an athletic mouthguard. Oral and facial injuries are some of the most common emergencies to occur in athletes. Even busted lips and knocked-out teeth result in thousands of emergency room visits per year. But unfortunately, emergency rooms can’t help with teeth!
One of the best ways to protect your smile against broken teeth, fractured jaws, and even concussions during athletic events is to wear a sports mouthguard. Only professionally designed guards are shown to reduce the severity of concussions and it’s due to the way they snuggly fit in place. Commercial sports guards might help a little bit, but they probably won’t stay there to safeguard you from secondary injuries (like the fall that comes after the initial hit.) Plus they tend to be bulky, so a lot of people take them out anyway. A custom guard is comfortable and secure, so you can talk to teammates and stay hydrated without it getting in the way.
To have a mouthguard made, just schedule a quick trip to our office to have an impression or scan made. Your custom appliance will be ready within a matter of days.
#2 – Floss. Every Day (or at Least Use a Water Flosser)
If you’re not cleaning between your teeth every day, you’re leaving about 2/5 of your tooth surfaces exposed to plaque and acids. Your toothbrush can’t reach between your teeth, which is why a lot of people will get cavities in those areas first.
Ideally, you want to floss once a day, curving the strand up against one tooth at a time and rubbing up and down several times. You also want the floss to gently slip just below the gum tissues to clean those areas too.
“But my gums bleed”, you say? It’s probably because you haven’t been flossing regularly and gingivitis or gum disease has started to develop. If that’s the case, don’t give up. Continue flossing until you see an improvement. If the bleeding doesn’t subside within a couple of weeks, visit our Raleigh dentist for a gum disease screening to check for bone loss and gum detachment. Healthy gums shouldn’t bleed when you floss your teeth.
Do you absolutely loathe flossing? Or maybe you find it extremely difficult to reach your back teeth? A great alternative is to switch over to a water flosser. Although a little messy at first, once you get the hang of them it’s just fine. A water flosser can even reach areas that flossing can’t, making them a great resource for your daily home care routine.
#3 – Drink Plenty of Water
Water is a natural cleanser. Even though it doesn’t physically rub away plaque, it can gently rinse your mouth throughout the day as you drink or sip on it. Our Raleigh dentist recommends keeping a refillable water bottle and refilling it straight from the tap. Tap water contains regulated fluoride levels, whereas a lot of bottled water brands do not (some of them have even been shown to have a slightly acidic pH level.) Even though the fluoride isn’t as strong as what you’re getting from an in-office treatment or your toothpaste, it can still be beneficial to your teeth and bones, just like calcium.
If you have a dry mouth, drinking plenty of water can help to counteract the effects of xerostomia. Since people with a low saliva flow are more at risk for cavities and burning mouth syndrome, staying hydrated will keep things lubricated and help to neutralize acids after you eat.
Speaking of eating, rinsing with water after your meal is a great habit to get into. Especially if you’re out and about and aren’t at home to brush your teeth. You should still brush twice a day, but adding rinsing into your routine after snacks and mid-day meals can be extremely beneficial.
#4 – Pick the Best Toothbrush to Protect Your Smile
Not all toothbrushes are created equal. Certain ones can actually be harmful to your teeth and gums. For instance, a hard or extra-hard toothbrush bristle texture can lead to receding gumlines and enamel notches worn out of your teeth. Even a fairly cheap electric toothbrush can be too rough on your smile.
Investing in a soft or extra-soft toothbrush is best. If you’re switching from a stiff-bristled design, the transition can take a lot of time to get used to. But the pliability in the bristles will ensure you’re not skipping over the curved surfaces throughout your mouth.
Ideally, it’s best to invest in a quality electric toothbrush. Sonic types of brushes can remove far more plaque bacteria than you will while using a manual toothbrush. Simply aim them in the right direction and let the brush do the work for you. If you’re not sure which brand to buy, we’ll be happy to offer our input. Just be sure to ask when you’re here for your exam!
#5 – Clench Your Teeth in Your Sleep? Wear a Nightguard
Nighttime teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism) can be the result of stress or even sleep apnea. And even though your teeth are technically the hardest thing in your entire body, they can’t endure constant tooth-on-tooth wear. In time, they’ll gradually wear one another out and leave you with flat, sharp, worn edges throughout your mouth. On top of that, any of your dental restorations (such as fillings or crowns) will also start to break apart.
A protective nightguard is a great way to prevent excessive wear from bruxism. The durable, custom-molded appliance places a thin buffer between your upper and lower teeth so that your jaw isn’t fully engaged, and prevents the teeth from touching one another. And even if you do wear through your nightguard, you can easily change it out with a new one (which is easier than replacing worn or broken teeth.)
Maybe you’re not a nighttime teeth grinder and you tend to do it more during the daytime. If that’s the case, we can fit you with a smaller bite splint that’s easier to wear while you’re driving or sitting at your desk.
#6 – Consider Straightening Your Teeth
Any time your teeth are crowded or crooked, you’re automatically at a higher risk for dental emergencies, gum disease, cavities, TMJ disorder, and worn-down teeth. When your bite lines up properly, it performs more efficiently. And teeth that are properly aligned are also easier to clean; there aren’t tight places or extra nooks and crannies for bacteria to hide out. So even if you did think that getting braces or Invisalign was more for aesthetic purposes, it can actually boost your overall oral health.
It doesn’t matter how you straighten your teeth to get the benefits of an aligned smile. Traditional braces and Invisalign are both extremely popular with our Raleigh patients. However, if you want to be able to keep your teeth as clean as possible without needing extra oral hygiene supplies, Invisalign is definitely the way to go. Plus, you can even remove them when it’s time to eat, so there’s practically zero impact on your day-to-day activities.
#7 – Supplement with Fluoride
Fluoride mouthwash is a great add-on to your bedtime routine. Rinsing with a fluoride rinse after you brush and floss and just before you go to sleep means those fluoride particles can help remineralize weak enamel. But not all mouthwash has fluoride in it. Be sure to read the label!
If you’re especially prone to decay, white spots, or you have a kid in braces, a prescription-strength fluoride gel may also be beneficial. Usually, this type of product is something you’ll brush with and then spit, but not rinse so that it can set on your teeth for longer.
Adults and children can use the same fluoride mouthwash, so even if it seems to be geared toward kids, it’s fine for your permanent teeth too!
#8 – Protect Your Smile with Regular Checkups
Preventative dental visits are one of your best tools against unnecessary treatment in the future. The truth is, most dental health concerns are preventable, save the occasional emergency. When you’re seeing our Raleigh dentist on a routine basis, we’re better able to monitor your health from one visit to the next and intervene if something isn’t normal. Addressing smaller issues means you can reverse or affordably correct them, whereas waiting several months would mean more time — and money — necessary to repair the issue at hand.
Has it been six months or longer since your last dental checkup? Contact Raleigh Dental Arts today to reserve your next exam and dental cleaning.