18 Ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy

Author: Jeff Salmeri

If your teeth and gums have never suffered from any significant problems, you probably never give your dental health a second thought. However, some of your everyday habits may be slowly and insidiously damaging your mouth. As it turns out, brushing your teeth several times a day is not the only thing that you can do to help ensure that you keep healthy and pain-free teeth well into old age. The following dietary and lifestyle factors are overlooked by many people, but will help you preserve your dental health for as long as possible.

1) Stop smoking. Everything about smoking cigarettes is very bad for your dental health. It will stain your teeth an unattractive yellow or brown, it will increase your likelihood of developing all kinds of oral cancer, and it also promotes gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can sometimes result in losing teeth.

2) If you want to avoid cavities and tooth decay, try to avoid drinking sodas where possible. Regular sodas are full of sugar, which promotes the formation of tooth cavities, and diet sodas contain acid artificial sweeteners that can slowly wear away at your teeth as well.

3) Do not have your tongue or lip pierced. When you have a lip or tongue piercing, the metal of this jewelry scrapes against the sensitive tissue of your gums, causing cuts and sensitive patches to form. People without mouth piercings are also less likely to crack or chip their teeth, as many people with such piercings will accidentally bite down on the metal and knock a chunk out of one of their teeth at some point.

4) Avoid drinking too much coffee. Unfortunately, coffee has been shown to slowly dye the teeth a yellowish brown color, and it also contains acid that can wear away the surface of your teeth. While those with enough money to have their teeth professionally whitened can treat the yellow teeth of a coffee-drinker, the decay from the acid in coffee cannot be reversed.

5) Never use your teeth to open packaging. When you can’t see a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, it is tempting to use your teeth to rip open a snack or a package. However, this is one of the main causes of cracked or chipped teeth, so it is always better to take the time to find a sharp object to use instead of using your teeth.

6) Always brush your teeth after eating starchy foods like potato chips. The chemicals in your mouth break starch down into acid that can seriously damage your teeth, so floss and brush as soon as possible after eating things like potato chips.

7) Seek treatment if you discover that you are grinding your teeth. While grinding your teeth (also known as bruxism) is mainly an unconscious and involuntary response to stress, it can be seriously bad for your jaw and is capable of causing toothache or even chipped teeth in extreme cases. Your dentist can give you some advice on how to reduce or cease teeth grinding. The best solution is usually to have a custom-made mouth guard that you can put in your mouth during the night. This will reduce the damage to your teeth if your bruxism continues.

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8) Brush your teeth in circular movements, and always use a brush that has soft bristles. This will help to keep the enamel of your teeth strong and healthy. If you use a toothbrush with hard bristles and brush your teeth too harshly, this can actually damage your tooth enamel.

9) Limit your consumption of wine. Red wine can dye your teeth varying shades of purple and grey, and the acid that it contains can also damage your teeth. While white wine will not dye your teeth, it still contains tooth-damaging acid. Whenever you drink wine, try to brush your teeth as soon as possible.

10) Always wear a mouth guard if you are playing contact sports (such as rugby, boxing or football). If you play these sports without a mouth guard, you are asking to have teeth knocked out or cracked. It is best to have your dentist fit you with a custom mouth guard that precisely suits the shape of your mouth, but if this is too expensive then a mouth guard from a sports store can afford you some protection.

11) Do not bite your fingernails. Many anxious people find that chewing their nails can help to reduce stress, but it also transports bacteria from your fingers onto your teeth and gums. If you have any open cuts (however small they might be), you run the risk of developing a bacterial infection in your mouth.

12) Be mindful of the sugar in throat sweets. The lozenges that can help to treat the painful symptoms of a cold or flu tend to contain huge amounts of cavity-encouraging sugars. When you do suck throat sweets to help ease throat pain, make sure you brush your teeth soon after consumption.

13) If you swim, do not do so daily. Swimming is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that can help you keep very fit and healthy, but if you swim every single day then your constant exposure to chlorine will wear away the enamel on your teeth.

14) Try to drink fruit juices that contain no added sugars. Although fruit juice contains lots of vitamins and is wonderful for most parts of your body, most fruit juices are also extremely sugary and therefore encourage the development of cavities.

15) Do not chew ice, as it is bad for your dental health in multiple different ways. Firstly, it can irritate the soft tissue that exists deep inside your teeth (as well as your gums). This can cause intense pain. Secondly, chewing ice can cause or exacerbate painful problems with your jaw joint. Finally, crunching ice cubes with your teeth of course makes it more likely that you will crack or chip one of your teeth.

16) Do not make a habit of eating gummy candy. Although all sugary candy increases your likelihood of developing cavities or suffering from tooth decay, gummy candy is particularly bad because of its tendency to lodge between teeth for long periods of time. Whenever you do treat yourself to gummy candy, carefully floss and brush your teeth as soon as possible.

17) Do not chew on your writing implements. Many people find that nibbling on the end of a pen or pencil can help them brainstorm while writing a paper or sitting a test, but this is another common cause of cracked or chipped teeth.

18) If you have to snack, go for foods that are not high in sugar or starch. The smaller the item you eat, the smaller the amount of saliva produced by your mouth. Without high amounts of saliva, the remains of your snack will stay in your mouth (and between your teeth) for longer periods of time. If you find that you often have to snack on foods that are high in starch or sugar, brush your teeth just as often.

If you try to follow all of the above advice, you will be much more likely to keep your teeth and gums healthy for a long period of time. You will also have more attractive teeth, and will feel more self-confident as a result. Finally, please remember that you should always talk to your dentist to see whether you need further treatment if you develop toothache or notice any lesions forming anywhere in your mouth.

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