Your teeth are some of the most important parts of your body — jewels, not tools — but are you doing all you can to keep them healthy? No offense, but probably not. But the good thing is that there are simple and natural ways that you can treat and prevent cavities and tooth decay without breaking the bank — or your teeth. It all starts out with what you're putting into your body, namely a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. In case you need proof, a study published in "The British Medical Journal" suggested that a change in diet can actually reverse tooth decay. What do you specifically need?
It can be hard to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need from food alone, so feel free to also take vitamins and supplements. But the vitamin-filled foods you should be focusing on are foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The best ones are apples, bananas, Brussels sprouts, and peas. In addition, whole grains contain magnesium, a mineral that helps absorb calcium and strengthen your teeth. And don't forget that calcium! It's the building block of all of your bones.
We've all heard, “Brush your teeth after every meal!” since we were little kids, and ideally, that would happen. But while it’s not always possible to brush this often, you should still brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. If possible, prioritize nighttime brushing. Saliva provides natural protection against cavities, but saliva production decreases while you sleep. This leaves your teeth more vulnerable, which is why you always want to go to bed with clean teeth. And that brush? Make sure it's soft. The soft bristles are not only more comfortable; they can more easily get between your teeth to remove food particles and plaque. About that brush...
Speaking of that toothbrush, it's very important that you clean and swap it out regularly. When you think of where that brush is going, don't you want to make sure it's as clean as possible? Most people should get a new toothbrush, or new electric toothbrush head, every three to four months. Your best guide is a visual inspection of the brush: If the bristles are no longer straight and instead curl under or flair to the sides, you need a replacement. And don't use covers for your toothbrush because they may harbor microorganisms and bacteria. Instead, just rinse your brush with water after each use, and leave it to air dry.
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This sounds a little bit contradictory, doesn't it? The key here is that it's sugarless gum — not the Hubba Bubba or Big League Chew you chomped on as a kid. The thing is, chewing sugarless gum can actually help you prevent tooth decay. Most sugarless gums contain a component called xylitol, which is a natural sweetener that doesn't lead to the growth of bacteria in your mouth. Plus, when you chew, your mouth fills with saliva that can naturally wash off food remains.
What's a sealant and why should you look into getting them? Sealants are clear coatings applied to your teeth to protect against plaque and eventual decay. You can only get sealant treatments to your dentist, and the treatment can last for several years. If you do opt for sealant treatment, you will need to develop a consistent schedule of dental visits so that your dentist can check the integrity of the sealant and perform a touch-up if necessary. It's like putting an extra coat of protection on your chompers.
We already know that a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — along with some sugarless gum — is ideal for tooth health. That means that sugary, sticky foods have the complete opposite effect. While it might taste good, sugar is a favored “food” of the bacteria that form plaque. In addition, sticky foods get stuck between teeth and can be difficult to remove. These foods, which may be high in sugar, also contribute to cavities between teeth. If you must consume them, make sure to floss and brush immediately after.
This is a no-brainer, but a lot of people only go to the dentist when there's a problem instead of taking a proactive approach. It’s recommended that adults see their dentist once every 12 months for a professional cleaning and examination. Professional cleanings are essential for keeping your teeth and gums healthy, and only your dentist has the expertise to identify possible dental problems in their early stages. Plus, your teeth just feel clean and shiny when you walk out of the office. (And if you're lucky, you get a free toothbrush. Bonus!)
This sounds a little hippy-dippy, but making your own toothpaste is actually quite simple, and that puts you in charge of the ingredients. Mix together: 4 tbsp calcium powder, 1 tbsp stevia, 1 tbsp sea salt, 2 tbsp baking soda, and 1/4 cup coconut oil until you get a paste. It should be even with no crumbs. Use it as a substitute for your regular toothpaste, but make sure not to use it for more than 30 days in a row due to its abrasive structure and absence of fluoride. Just swap it in for your usual paste for a month at a time.
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You know you tell your dentist that you floss daily, but then your bleeding gums sell you out the next time your at your appointment. It's not fun, but flossing is one of the easiest ways to keep your teeth clean and healthy. Floss at least once a day, preferably at night before you go to bed, to pull out any remaining food from underneath your gums. If you find traditional dental floss difficult to use, you can buy pre-flossed picks at any drugstore. Keep some in your purse or desk for use during the day so you have no excuse.
We all know that we're supposed to be drinking a lot of water throughout the day, and many people walk around with bottled water, which is fine from time to time. But it's the water from your tap that is actually healthiest for your teeth. Why? Bottled waters may not contain fluoride, which is essential for protecting your teeth against cavities. If you don’t drink tap water because you don’t like the taste or don’t feel comfortable with your local water supply, just talk to your dentist about other options. Because remember, you ARE going to the dentist, right?
There's no two ways around it — dry mouth is uncomfortable, but it can also be unhealthy for your teeth. We know that saliva helps to ward off plaque, so lack of saliva means your mouth is less able to keep your teeth protected. Dry mouth has many causes, including the use of medications, aging, or other medical conditions. It can also contribute to oral health issues such as bad breath, plaque formation gum disease, and cavities. If you notice that you have dry mouth, talk to your dentist and even your doctor. They can offer up simple solutions. Speaking of simple...
There's really nothing simpler than swishing a bit of mouthwash around your mouth for about a minute a day. Everyone has the time, and everyone should be doing it. Many people use mouthwash to freshen breath, but mouthwashes containing fluoride can also help protect cavities. In addition, vigorously rinsing with mouthwash can also loosen food particles between teeth that can contribute to cavities and gum disease. Long story short, get to swishing.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by defending your teeth against acid attacks caused by plaque bacteria and sugars in your mouth, and it can also reverse early tooth decay. You could be brushing and flossing diligently, but your smile would still lose some luster — and fluoride — over time. Getting regular fluoride treatments throughout your adult life are a great way to fight back and reverse the clock. Remember that it’s a lot easier and cheaper to preserve your teeth rather than trying to restore them. And last but not least...
Coconut oil is having quite the moment as of late, and it's not just for cooking or baking with anymore. A lot of people are trying coconut pulling to naturally protect teeth from decay. How does it work? The oil pulls bacteria out of your teeth and naturally heals them. Simply swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes until your saliva and the oil turn a milky white color, making sure not to swallow it. This has been proven to help prevent against cavities and can even whiten your teeth. And after all, who doesn't love a healthy, vibrant smile?