The surface of your teeth is called enamel. It helps protect them from decay. Some wear and tear is normal, but there's plenty you can do to keep that barrier strong. Take these simple steps for a healthy mouth and a winning smile.
1. Limit Sugary Foods and Drinks
Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar from foods and drinks. Then they make acids, which soften and wear away your enamel. Chewy candies that stick on your teeth are can also cause damage. Soft drinks may have extra acids.
Soft drinks with artificial sweeteners are a smarter choice than ones with sugar, but they're also acidic and will wear down enamel over time.
The best choice when you're thirsty? A glass of plain water. Many flavored waters are acidic.
2. Eat Foods That Protect Enamel
Calcium in food counters acids in your mouth that cause decay. It also helps keep your bones and teeth strong.
Milk, cheese, and other dairy products help protect and strengthen enamel, says Pamela L. Quinones, past president of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Choose low-fat or fat-free items to help keep calories down.
If you don't eat dairy, look for foods with calcium added.
3. Avoid Over-Brushing
You can wear down your enamel if you brush too fast and hard. Hold a brush with a soft bristle at about a 45-degree angle to your gums. Then move it back and forth in short, gentle strokes, about the distance of one tooth.
Wait for up to an hour after eating sweets or citrus fruits before you brush your teeth. Acidic foods can soften enamel and may make it easier for you to damage it.
4. Use Fluoride
The American Dental Association (ADA) calls fluoride "nature's cavity fighter" because it strengthens your enamel and helps repair the early stages of tooth decay.
Fluoride also makes your teeth more resistant to acids that come from foods and from bacteria in your mouth.
The ADA recommends fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears and throughout your life. When choosing a mouthwash, look for products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. To earn the seal, manufacturers need to demonstrate that the product does what it claims to do.