7 Keys to Avoiding Tooth Decay, Dentists Reveal–It’s Not as Simple as Just Brushing

April 1, 2019 Updated: April 5, 2019

Teeth are some of the most important implements of our bodies. Although we can live without them, it makes life incredibly difficult—and the healthier they are, the easier it is for you to go about doing everything from talking to eating.

Just like other aspects of taking care of ourselves—watching what we eat, exercising, and showering each day—oral hygiene has its particulars to keep in mind, which, if neglected, may easily lead to tooth decay or worse, and that can be both painful and expensive to remedy.

Brushing your teeth is an important step to preventing tooth decay, but it’s not the only way to keep your teeth healthy and strong. These are a few other key tips to making your mouth happy and healthy:

1. Watch Your Sugar Consumption

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If you’re a heavy soda drinker or give in to sweet tooth cravings too often, you’re doing your teeth a major disservice; sugar can eat away at the enamel on your teeth over time and leave you with a pretty pricey dental bill.

It’s not just obvious sweets like chocolate and hard candy that can damage your dental work over time, though. Even the natural sugars in foods like fruits, breads, and potatoes can start to do their own damage, too; if you aren’t careful, you can find yourself dealing with tooth decay even if you’ve put away the candy bars.

The best way to avoid this is to eat as healthy as possible, but to also work on washing your food down with water while you go. Be careful about what you drink, too; following up a plate of fruit with a tall glass of juice can be just as bad for your teeth as not trying to wash away the food residue at all.

2. Brush Twice a Day

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When you get up to start your day each morning, one of the first things on your to-do list should be to make a trip to your bathroom sink. Brushing your teeth in the morning is crucial, and skipping that first brush of the day can speed up the decay process in a big way.

While you don’t necessarily need to find a sink and brush after every meal, though, you should at least be brushing twice a day; the American Dental Association suggests that you’ll keep your teeth healthier for longer by following that edict.

Of course, there are some stipulations. If you’ve just eaten or drank something particularly acidic, like orange juice or soda, wait a bit before pulling out the toothbrush and getting to work. The acid temporarily weakens the enamel on your teeth, and it can actually work against you. If you brush your teeth while the enamel is vulnerable, you risk scrubbing it away.

3. Don’t Treat Your Teeth Harshly

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Sometimes, in the pursuit of brushing as thoroughly as possible, people try to really scrub away at the plaque on their chompers—but be careful just how hard you brush, and what you use to brush with.

Using a hard-bristled brush can actually speed up the process of tooth decay, especially if you have sensitive teeth. And things like activated charcoal, which some people use to whiten their teeth, can actually start to speed up tooth decay if used too often. The thought of bright, sparkling white teeth may be tempting, but overdoing it on the harsh, grainy charcoal toothpastes and other scrubs can leave you with teeth that are in far worse shape than they were when they were just a little bit discolored.

4. Visit Your Dentist Regularly

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Once you reach adulthood, it may feel freeing to not need those annual checkups at the doctor or dentist’s office. But keeping up with at least one visit a year, just to get your teeth cleaned and checked up on, can actually help you in the long run; it’s much easier to check in with your dentist for a quick annual visit than to shell out thousands for the dental work you’ll need done when your teeth start to decay.

Ideally, the American Dental Association recommends that you make two visits a year, but making sure to at least fit in one visit before the calendar switches over can save you both time and money when all is said and done. And the more frequently you go, the less needs to be done when you do stop in; chances are, you’ve kept your teeth in pretty good shape if you’re remembering to make your appointments like that.

5. Quit Smoking

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Most bad habits have some sort of adverse effect on your teeth—the sugar in most alcoholic beverages certainly isn’t doing you any favors — but perhaps the most damaging vice for your dental state is smoking.

Cigarettes can ruin your lungs and damage your heart, but they can also give your mouth some serious, long-lasting problems if you light up regularly.

Smoking is a leading cause of serious gum disease, which can lead to spaces forming between your gums and your teeth. That invites bacteria to grow and linger, which can then cause your teeth to decay and even fall out. To make matters worse, smoking seriously inhibits your immune system—so when you do contract gum diseases, your body is less able to fight them off.

The best way to keep your teeth healthy is to never smoke at all, but you can at least improve your immune system and stop damaging your teeth further by quitting no matter how long you’ve smoked.

6. Snack Less

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We’ve all done it; lazed in front of the TV and grazed on something tasty when we were bored or feeling lethargic. We snack when we study, work late into the night, or just can’t wait for dinner to start.

As common as snacking is, though, dentists recommend that you cut down on how often you do it if you want your teeth to stay in good shape. Limiting your food consumption to regular mealtimes can cut down on how much plaque build-up you accumulate during the day (especially if you replace your typical snacks with water or green tea) and helps keep your teeth healthier for longer.

If you do need to snack, though, be smart about it. As already mentioned, it’s not just how often you eat—it’s what you eat, too.

7. Use Fluoride

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While sugars, acids, and bacteria work to break down your teeth, fluoride is a mineral that works to do the opposite; it protects your chompers and keeps them strong. Dentists recommend that you use fluoride daily to keep the bacteria at bay.

Most toothpaste brands that you find on the shelves at your local grocery store contain fluoride nowadays, but there are plenty of ways that you can make sure that you (or your children) are getting enough fluoride to keep your teeth healthy and strong. In addition to your toothpaste, most public water sources are treated with fluoride as well; check with your local water management company to see if that’s the case where you live. It may not be if you use a private well, but there are fluoride tablets that you can use if that’s the case; there are a plethora of ways to make sure that this tooth-saving mineral finds its way into your life.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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