Keeping your teeth and gums healthy seems straightforward, but a surprising number of people have trouble with it. According to the CDC, more than one in four adults currently have at least one cavity and tooth decay. These issues can lead to tooth loss, gum disease and even oral cancer if left untreated.
Brushing your teeth every day is a good start, but you can do a lot more to naturally boost your oral health. Here are seven habits you should add to your oral hygiene routine.
1. Treat Flossing Like Brushing
Every time you go to the dentist’s office, they ask you the same two questions. Have you been brushing your teeth? Have you been flossing? Although the first habit gets most of the attention, brushing and flossing are equally important. Flossing removes about 80% of the plaque from your teeth, primarily from areas a toothbrush can’t reach.
Flossing also plays a huge role in boosting gum health. Clinical studies found that regular flossing reduced mild gum disease at higher rates than brushing alone. It gives your gums much-needed stimulation, removes bacteria, promotes more blood flow and makes them stronger.
Gums that immediately start bleeding when you floss are a sign you’re not flossing frequently enough. Your teeth might appear clean, but your gums and the tight spaces between each tooth are not. Make a personal goal to start flossing every time you brush your teeth. The extra 30 seconds will make a world of difference.
2. Switch to a Natural Toothpaste
Toothpaste is a difficult product to evaluate. Every brand claims to have a unique teeth-whitening or plaque-destroying formula that “nine out of 10 dentists recommend.” Instead of experimenting with countless options, why not switch to a toothpaste with more natural, simple ingredients? Fluoride and coconut oil are two viable options.
Fluoride is fantastic at preventing tooth decay because it makes your tooth enamel more resistant to acidic foods and beverages. It also has no taste or smell because it’s a natural mineral, so you don’t have to worry about it giving you bad breath. You can also increase your teeth’s exposure to fluoride by drinking tea and coffee and eating lots of fruit.
Coconut oil is also effective against tooth decay because its high lauric acid content cuts through viruses and bacteria. Another compound called glycerin helps with teeth whitening and is a common ingredient in most toothpaste products. All you have to do is mix coconut oil with baking soda to create your own homemade toothpaste.
3. Make Your Own Mouthwash
If you want to switch to a natural toothpaste, you might as well make your own mouthwash, too. Mouthwash is a great oral hygiene resource, cleaning those hard-to-reach places and strengthening your tooth enamel. This simple homemade recipe has impressive bacteria-fighting properties and tastes good too:
- 2 teaspoons of baking soda
- ½ cup of distilled or filtered water
- 2 drops of tea tree essential oil
- 2 drops of peppermint essential oil
Contrary to popular belief, mouthwash doesn’t need to have a high alcohol content and burn your mouth to be effective. If you have sensitive teeth and gums, a sweet and simple recipe will do just fine. Rinse for 30 seconds to one minute a day and reap the benefits.
4. Drink More Water
Drinking water is another easy way to naturally boost your oral health. Staying hydrated maintains saliva levels, which helps teeth regain lost minerals from eating and drinking corrosive substances. Saliva also washes away food particles and cavity-causing bacteria.
Fluoride-rich water is especially beneficial because it makes your tooth enamel stronger. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends a .7 milligram-per-liter water fluoridation level for all communities to promote good oral health.
5. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Your diet is just as important as brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash. Some delicious foods, including strawberries, apples, broccoli, celery and cauliflower, have high malic acid levels that fight discoloration and keep your teeth white. Why use artificial whiteners when you can eat food with natural whitening properties instead?
It’s also important to eat crunchy food like nuts and leafy greens for two big reasons. It increases saliva production, washing away more food particles and harmful bacteria. It also forces your jaw to work harder, strengthening your teeth and facial muscles.
6. Reduce Acidic and Sugary Foods
It’s no secret that sugary, acidic foods are among the main causes of tooth decay. The corrosive ingredients eat through tooth enamel, weaken gums and cause bad breath. You need to eliminate foods with high levels of sugar and acid from your diet as much as possible, starting with these products:
- Ice cream
- Hard candy
Frequent snacking is another bad diet habit for your oral health. You need to give your teeth and gums a chance to recover after eating, which is why doctors recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after eating to brush or floss. The enamel is already sensitive and vulnerable. Spread out your meals and give your teeth a rest.
7. Avoid Drinking and Smoking
You should also avoid drinking alcohol and smoking. Both habits are terrible for your oral health. Alcohol dries out your mouth and creates the ideal environment for bacteria, significantly increasing the risk of gingivitis, periodontitis and other gum diseases. Regular alcohol users are also three times more likely to experience permanent tooth loss than nondrinkers.
Smoking has directly led to numerous oral health problems for millions of people, including discoloration, bad breath, inflammation of the salivary glands, plaque buildup and a heightened risk of gum disease. Smokers even have a lower success rate of dental implant procedures because it takes longer for their mouths to heal after the old teeth are extracted.
Take Your Oral Hygiene Seriously
Brushing your teeth once a day might be enough to keep your teeth presentable, but you can do a lot better. Start taking your oral hygiene more seriously and incorporate these seven habits into your wellness lifestyle. A rigorous cleaning schedule and balanced diet will have your teeth and gums looking healthier than ever.