6 easy ways to protect your smile

Most people don’t realize how easy it can be to incorporate healthy behaviors into their regular routines. Here are some simple ways to enjoy better oral health.

Brush your teeth correctly twice daily.
Almost a third (32%) of adults brush their teeth less than twice a day,1 increasing their risk of cavities and gum disease. Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time is the most effective way to remove plaque.

Make sure to:

  • Brush thoroughly, reaching every tooth surface above and slightly below the gumline.
  • Use toothpaste with fluoride — it’s key to preventing tooth decay.
  • Brush gently, because brushing too hard can damage your gums and wear down tooth enamel.
  • Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about brushing effectively.

Wear a mouth guard.
Anyone playing contact sports like field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, football, wrestling and ice hockey should use a mouth guard to protect against mouth injuries, including:

  • Lost and cracked teeth
  • Damage to roots and crowns
  • Torn lips and cheeks

Mouth guards are also beneficial for other activities that have the potential for mouth injuries — such as skateboarding, mountain biking, gymnastics and more.

Read our article on mouth guards to learn more about selecting and caring for this important piece of equipment.

Protect your lips outdoors.
Protecting your lips from cancer-causing sun exposure is just as important as wearing sunscreen on the rest of your body. Apply a water-resistant lip balm that contains SPF 30 or higher sunscreen when you are outside, even on cloudy days. Remember to reapply at least every two hours — even more often when swimming.

Use your teeth only to chew foods.
Avoid using your teeth as tools to open bottles and packages or to chew on pens, pencils, fingernails and ice. If you use your teeth in unnatural ways, you can:

  • Crack or chip your teeth
  • Damage your fillings
  • Cause toothaches
  • Wear down tooth enamel
  • Irritate soft tissues inside your teeth

Find healthy alternatives to sugary drinks.
It’s well known that sugar is hard on your teeth and can cause cavities. But it may surprise you just how much sugar is in some drinks, including so called “healthy drinks.”

Surprising amounts of sugar per 12 ounce serving:

  • 12 teaspoons: fruit smoothies
  • 9 teaspoons: fruit juices and energy drinks
  • 8 teaspoons: sodas
  • 6 teaspoons: sports drinks
  • 3 teaspoons: chocolate milk

Reducing your consumption of sugary beverages or swapping them out for water or plain milk can help improve your smile and overall health.

Watch out for surprise sugars.
When you think of sugar-packed foods, you may picture sweets like candy and other desserts. But many foods that aren’t sweet often contain large amounts of sugar — like BBQ sauce (up to 40% sugar), ketchup, baked beans and canned soups.2

As with drinks, watch out for foods that many consider healthy. Some low-fat yogurts, canned fruits and most granola, protein bars and breakfast cereals are full of sugar.

Look for low-sugar versions of these products or keep their high sugar content in mind and consume them only in moderation.

These are just a few of the good oral health habits you can practice daily. In addition to brushing correctly, protecting your mouth and watching your diet, make sure to floss daily and avoid tobacco. You’ll see the results with a healthy smile!  

1 DDPA 2019 Adult’s Oral Health & Well-Being Survey
2 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/18-surprising-foods-high-in-sugar#section3

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