October is National Dental Hygiene Month—so what better a time than now to make sure you’ve gotten all of your dental health needs taken care of before the end of the year? Plus, the end of the year is usually the time when your dental insurance benefits run out! Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have all your ducks in a row while you still have time. Use the following dental hygiene checklist to help ensure your teeth are on the right track:

8 Dental Hygiene Steps To Take Right Now

1. Stay hydrated throughout the day

Water is one of the key ingredients in your saliva, and the saliva is what helps rinse food particles away from the teeth, as well as lubricate the mouth. Because food particles that are left on the teeth disintegrate into a sticky cavity-causing film called plaque, it is best to keep the mouth clean and clear of food after eating. Therefore, maintaining hydration is necessary to prevent dry mouth and cavities (tooth decay).

2. Incorporate mouthwash and a tongue scraper into your routine

Antimicrobial mouthwash is a great way to ensure you are doing everything possible to protect and clean your teeth! Additionally, a tongue scraper helps to remove leftover food that can get stuck in between the papillae (the tiny cone-shaped protruding structures that line the entire tongue and house the taste buds).

3. Drink one glass of water with every cup of coffee, juice (or anything acidic)

As a general rule, acid is not good for the teeth. Anything acidic including fruit juice, soda, coffee, etc. can soften the enamel (hard, outer shell of the tooth), making it easier to erode and expose the next layer of the tooth (yellow “dentin). Drinking a full glass of water with every cup of acidic beverage helps to dilute the acid and rinse some of it away from the teeth. It won’t fully protect your teeth, but it does help.

4. Cut back on sugar

Sugar is the “food” that cavity-causing bacteria feed on! Therefore, it’s best to eat as little sugar as possible in order to prevent tooth decay (cavities). Additionally, a diet that is high in sugar can wrStay eak havoc on the body and your insulin levels, so it’s best to stick to a low-sugar diet in general.

5. Don’t skip flossing

Contrary to semi-popular belief, flossing actually is essential for good dental hygiene. Flossing removes plaque and food from in between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. When plaque is left on the tooth’s surface, it hardens into a smelly, bacteria-ridden substance called tartar (also known as calculus), which is a key sign of periodontal disease (gum disease)–a leading cause of tooth loss. Thus, flossing is a necessary and crucial step in daily dental hygiene.

6. Brush all of the tooth’s surfaces (front, back, chewing surfaces) 2x/day, everyday

Make sure that when you brush your teeth, you are doing it the proper way. It’s important to understand that just simply sliding the toothbrush across the fronts and chewing surfaces of the teeth is not sufficient for adequate plaque removal. Every surface of the tooth that you can physically reach should be brushed twice daily, everyday. That includes the very back of the molars, behind the front and bottom teeth, and all chewing surfaces.

7. Use the right type of toothbrush, for a full two minutes

Some people often think that the tougher the bristles, the better and cleaner the teeth will be. This is actually false. The American Dental Association found that a soft-bristled toothbrush is just as effective yet easier on the gums. Furthermore, the ADA found that brushing for a full two minutes is necessary to achieve “clinically significant plaque removal.”

8. Stick to the 30-minute rule to prevent enamel erosion

Try not to brush your teeth until at least thirty minutes has passed after eating or drinking anything acidic! This is because the acid in whatever food or beverage you had will soften the enamel, and it will take a full 30 minutes for the enamel to re-mineralize (harden). If you brush your teeth while the enamel is still soft, you could very well be stripping enamel away from your teeth. Remember- the enamel is the outermost protective layer of the tooth. Less enamel usually equates to more sensitivity in the teeth.

infographic describing 8 dental hygiene things to do before the end of the year

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