We use teeth to tear, grind, and chew food. But that’s not all teeth do. They are essential for proper speech formation: teeth help in articulation of words by controlling airflow. They are also structurally and aesthetically important. Smile (and teeth) are some of the first things people notice about us. We may not use teeth like a weapon, like a beaver (whose teeth are quite remarkable) for instance, but that doesn’t make them any less critical. Even so, dental health is possibly the most ignored by people. But the good news this problem is also easily addressed and corrected. Here are the few regular habits which, cultivated diligently, will keep your teeth healthy and looking great.
Brush twice a day
Even superheroes have to brush twice a day. We brush to remove stains and food, to get rid of bad breath, to “feel” minty and clean. But the real reason you need to brush is much smaller and much bigger at the same time – smaller because it a has to do with microorganisms, bigger because this microbe film is the most important cause of tooth decay. These microbes regularly form a film over the enamel of the teeth. They belong to many families – species of bacteria, protozoa, algae. Terrifying? Hence the nice and tidy euphemisms: biofilm or dental plaque. The microbes release acids that then form tartar which causes tooth decay and gum diseases (like gingivitis and periodontitis) when not removed regularly. We cannot stop Bacteria and Friends from accumulating on our teeth. What we can do is get rid of them regularly before they cause trouble. Brushing twice a day is recommended. Some experts disagree and say thrice a day is better. If you cannot imagine brushing in the middle of the day, probably at the office (it can make things weird), make sure you brush at least twice a day.
Since we have established that brushing twice a day is imperative, let’s also cover technique as recommended by a dentists all over the globe:
- You have to brush for at least 2 minutes. Divide your teeth into 4 sections and spend 30 seconds on teeth. Some electric toothbrushes have built-in timers to keep track. You may think all of this timer stuff is a little over the top, but never say that to a dentist. Ever.
- Choose a toothbrush not too small or too big for you. This, the dentists say, is a very common mistake.If you have to strain your jaw to brush your teeth, your toothbrush is too big. We guess you can find if it’s too small by looking at it. The dentists weren’t very clear.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluorides fight the acidic tartar deposits and are the most important ingredients against tooth decay. You can use “ayurvedic, organic, chemical-free” toothpastes, but make sure they have fluorides in it. Without fluorides, they are all just fancy mouth fresheners.
- Rinse your toothbrush after brushing. Store your toothbrush upright so that the water can drain off. Also don’t cover it: covering it or keeping it in a closed container promotes mould.
Normal flow of saliva into the mouth washes away most of the decay causing plaque. But the flow is controlled by the amount of water your drink. For a steady flow of saliva, make sure to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water. Or more if it’s too hot or you work out heavily.
There are other ways you can dehydrate your mouth: smoking, alcohol, too much caffeine. All of these can restrict saliva flow and increase the chances of tooth decay and gum problems.
Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates
A good diet is also essential for dental health. The various organisms that for dental plaque thrive on sugar. They eat it and also use it to build a cover over the enamel, that over time becomes resistant to brushing. Lessening the amount of sugar and simple carbs you eat will starve the biofilm guys and will reduce your chances of developing cavities and decay. So watch your diet. Your teeth (and body) will thank you for it.
Flossing may seem complex and unnecessary. But your toothbrush cannot reach all the places in your mouth, especially between your teeth. Plaque can form between your teeth and flossing is the only way to prevent that. Most flosses are fluoridated too. Flossing once a day is sufficient.
Here’s how you do it:
- Take a good amount (about 18 inches) of floss. Wrap the ends around the middle figures of both your hands. The floss left in between the fingers, about 3-4 inches, must be taut.
- Use your index and middle fingers to gently slide the floss between your teeth.
- Be gentle. You want to clean the sides of your teeth without ever pushing into your gums.
- Think of flossing as a rubbing motion, not a yanking one.
- Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash once you’re done.
- Do this for 2 to 3 minutes, but even 60 seconds will go a long way in furthering the health of your teeth.
- Never reuse floss. Throw the used length away.