Have you ever heard the saying that “a smile goes a long way”? A well-maintained smile says a lot about our character, priorities, and internal feelings and emotions. It communicates that we are confident, professional, friendly, and willing to engage with others. In other words, a healthy smile is essential to our lives as an external indicator of our internal health meter.

Each year in October, we celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month. This is the perfect time to celebrate the work our dentists, hygienists, orofacial specialists in sleep and airway, and orthodontists do to support, protect, and promote a healthy and happy smile and raise awareness on the importance of good oral hygiene in our everyday lives.

From brushing and flossing our teeth to avoiding food and drink that might harm our oral health and scheduling regular visits with your dentist specializing in airway, there are many positive daily habits to implement. In honor of National Dental Hygiene Month, here are some tips to help boost your oral hygiene at home.

Brush Your Teeth

Good oral hygiene begins and ends with proper and frequent brushing. Brushing helps protect your teeth by removing leftover food particles and deposits of plaque and coating them with mineral nutrients from your toothpaste that strengthen the enamel. Implementing a good brushing routine begins with selecting a toothbrush that’s right for you. There are many different brushes, and it is essential to choose one that is the right fit for the size and shape of your mouth. The most common toothbrush recommended by dentists is one that’s standard-sized with soft bristles. This is an excellent choice, especially for individuals who brush with more rigorous movements, as stiffer bristles have the potential to damage teeth and lead to gum loss in the long run.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following guidelines for proper tooth brushing:

  1. Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice each day.
  2. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush using gentle movements.
  3. Replace your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles wear down, whichever comes first.

Floss

The vast majority of individuals understand the importance of flossing, but only 30 percent of us floss regularly. Flossing is essential to proper oral hygiene as it dislodges food particles that become stuck between the teeth during meals. If these remnants are left untouched, they can trigger the growth of harmful oral bacteria, cause inflammation of the gums, and, over time, lead to a buildup of bacteria and plaque, which can cause dental disease, tooth decay, and gum loss.

Here’s the best way to floss your teeth:

  1. After brushing, break off around 24 inches of dental floss.
  2. Wind the floss around two of your fingers and hold it taught.
  3. Gently place the floss between your teeth, moving it around to dislodge any food particles or plaque buildup.
  4. Repeat between each tooth.

Avoid Harmful Food and Drink

Have you ever heard the saying “You are what you eat?” This is especially true for our oral health. Foods that are starchy, sticky, and sugary have the potential to form a thin layer of plaque around our teeth, feeding germs and bacteria and eventually causing the enamel to break down. This is irreparable, so we should take every precaution to avoid damage and protect our pearly whites. Here is a list of the best and worst foods for your overall oral health and wellness.

Foods that contribute positively to our oral health include the following:

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: Foods rich in fiber are a natural way to keep your teeth clean. Fiber induces the production of saliva, restoring vital nutrients to your mouth.
  • Cheese, milk, and yogurt: Dairy-rich foods are another excellent trigger for salivary glands to get going. They also help restore enamel and keep our bones healthy and strong.
  • Green and black tea: These substances contain polyphenols, micronutrients that we get from plant-based foods, which prevent the spread of gum disease-causing bacteria.
  • Foods with fluoride: Fluoride supports the mineralization of bones and teeth.

Foods that harm our oral health include the following:

  • Sticky sweets: Candies and other desserts contain large amounts of refined sugar, leading to cavities and tooth decay.
  • Starchy foods: Foods containing significant amounts of starch can become trapped between teeth and contribute to an increase in the amount of plaque present.
  • Carbonated drinks: Most carbonated beverages contain large amounts of sugar, phosphoric, and citric acid, which wear away at tooth enamel.
  • Alcohol: Beverages that contain alcohol tend to dry out the mouth, leading to a decrease in micronutrients present and opening the door for cavity-causing bacteria.

Visit the Dentist Regularly

It is the norm to have biannual checkups, though many of us miss them, failing to prioritize our oral health. Why is this? Dentists are essential in assisting with removing plaque and are the only ones able to recognize the early signs of cavities, gum disease, and other dental illnesses. By educating ourselves on the importance of good oral hygiene in our overall health and wellness, we will ensure a healthy and happy smile for years to come.

In addition, the ADA now recommends that you have your dentist screen for sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) or an issue of the upper airway. Why? Dentists are the front line for screening and detection because several signs of SDB manifest themselves in the structure of an individual’s mouth and throat. Additionally, dentists often receive an education in oral anatomy that is much more extensive than other physicians’ training in this subject area, which means they are well equipped to identify possible problems.

National Dental Hygiene Month is the perfect time to celebrate our oral specialists and raise awareness on the importance of implementing a good oral hygiene routine in our everyday lives. By not only brushing and flossing but also scheduling regular visits with your dentist, you can ensure a happy and healthy smile for years to come.