You brush and floss daily, visit the dentist regularly and eat a healthy diet. What else can you do to keep your teeth and gums looking their best?
Drinking fluoridated water continues to be the most safe and effective way to protect against tooth decay, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General. If bottled water without fluoride is your family’s main source of drinking water, or if you have a filtration system in your home that eliminates fluoride from your tap water, ask your dentist if you or your children should add fluoride to your diet.
Common ways to add fluoride include:
- Eating and drinking commercially prepared foods and beverages that are fortified with fluoride.
- Using fluoridated toothpaste.
- Getting a professionally-applied gel or varnish.
- Taking fluoride supplements, available by prescription as tablets, drops or lozenges.
Another healthy habit is chewing sugar-free gum when toothbrushing and flossing aren’t practical. While chewing gum containing sugar may increase your chances of developing a cavity, studies show the opposite is chewing sugar-free gum, especially if the gum is sweetened with xylitol. Chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks help rinse off and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque, which are harmful to tooth enamel.
Both the act of chewing and the flavor of the artificial sweeteners in the gum stimulate saliva at 10 times its normal rate. Not only does increased saliva neutralize the acids in your mouth, but it also washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean.
Sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of a particular type of bacteria known to cause cavities. In the presence of xylitol, the bacteria lose the ability to stick to the tooth, which helps to prevent a cavity from forming.
Many people are unaware that consuming carbonated beverages, fruit juice, and highly acidic foods, like pickles and honey, can harm teeth. Regularly chewing and sucking on orange and lemon wedges is especially problematic. The acids in these foods and beverages can cause tooth enamel to wear away, and teeth can become sensitive and discolored.
Rinsing with water and chewing sugar-free gum are two ways to help neutralize the effects of acidic foods and beverages. Some other tips:
- If you must consume acidic drinks, don’t swish them around or hold them in your mouth for long periods. Instead, drink them quickly and use a straw.
- Don’t let acidic foods linger in your mouth – swallow them as soon as you’ve chewed them enough so that they are ready to digest.
- Instead of snacking on acidic foods throughout the day, eat them just during meal times to minimize the amount of time your teeth are being exposed to the acid.
These are a few tips to help you stay healthy and keep smiling.😁