Everyone notices a beautiful smile, but many of us still take our teeth for granted. If you don’t take care of your teeth, you can wind up with bad breath, painful cavities, or even gum disease. In honor of National Dental Hygiene Month, here are some tips from the American Dental Association to keep you smiling—and a playlist of music videos to make you grin!
- Brushing is basic. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes. We know you know this, but it really is the best way to clean away the debris from eating and drinking.
- Floss every day. Flossing gets the bits and pieces that brushing can’t, and helps keep your gums healthy. Pull the floss between your teeth in a “c” shape to get your gums clean.
- Stay away from sugary or starchy snacks. They can lead to cavities. When you just gotta have something sweet, brush your teeth or chew sugarless gum after. Chewing sugarless gum will make your mouth water and help clean out food particles anytime you can’t brush after a meal or snack.
- Wear a mouthguard when you’re active. Nobody wants to lose a front tooth! If you skateboard or play a sport, get a mouthguard (also known as a mouth protector). If you can’t afford a custom-made one from a dentist, try a boil-and-bite mouth protector. These are available at many sporting goods stores and drugstores. Before using it, you soften the mouthguard in water, insert it, and allow it to fit to the shape of your mouth. Most drugstores also carry stock mouthguards. These are inexpensive and come ready to wear, but usually don’t fit quite as well as the other types.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking and other tobacco products (this includes hookah and e-cigs!) can cause bad breath. Who wants to kiss an ashtray? In addition to all the other serious health problems they cause, they can stain your teeth and tongue, dull your sense of taste and smell, and cause gum disease and oral cancer.
- Don’t pierce your lips or any part of your mouth. Because our mouths are full of bacteria, it’s really important to be careful about infections. Piercing your lips or tongue exposes you to infection, both during piercing and afterwards while your body tries to heal. If you decide to get a piercing in or near your mouth, be sure to carefully follow the aftercare instructions. As your piercing heals, you’ll want to stay away from smoking, alcohol-based mouthwash, French kissing and oral sex. In addition, studs or rings in your mouth can damage your teeth and gums. Why not get your ear or eyebrow pierced instead?
- See your dentist regularly. A dentist can help prevent and fix dental problems. Ideally, you should see a dentist every 6 months for routine cleaning. Even if you don’t have dental insurance or can’t afford expensive dental care, you can still get the treatment you need. If you live in the New York City area and are 10-22 years old, you can get free dental care at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. Call us at 212-423-3000 to make an appointment. You can also try federally funded community health centers, Medicaid if you qualify and are under age 21, or CHIP if you’re uninsured and under age 19. Dental schools and dental hygiene schools can be a good source of quality, low-cost dental treatment. Your state may have other resources for free or reduced-cost dental care. Click here for more info.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.