Woman wearing headphones at dentist
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Ax the Dental Visit Anxiety

If being in the dentist's chair makes you anxious, encourage calm by bringing a music player and headphones to your next appointment. And because some people hold their breath when they're nervous -- boosting that anxious feeling -- focus on breathing regularly. Above all, communicate with your dentist. They understand your fears and want to help.

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Woman flossing teeth
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Floss First or Brush First?

Flossing first makes brushing your teeth more effective by removing food that gets trapped between teeth. If handling floss flusters you, look for floss holders at the drugstore. When it's time to brush, angle bristles 45-degree at the gum line, then brush gently, moving the brush back and forth. Then, rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash to help get rid of any leftover plaque.

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Man picking teeth with toothpick
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Go Easy With Toothpicks

If you don't have floss, a toothpick will work to remove food stuck between teeth, but be gentle. It's easy to press too hard and damage your gums, or even worse, break off a toothpick below the gum line. Floss helps remove food from between teeth better than a toothpick and fights plaque buildup by getting rid of bacteria that form there. Regularly using a toothpick to remove food trapped in a single area may indicate a bigger problem that requires a dentist's attention.

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Sagging toothbrush
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Replace Your Toothbrush

Toothbrush bristles fray, flatten, and wear over time. To help keep your smile bright, replace your manual toothbrush every three or four months; for electric toothbrush heads, follow the manufacturer's advice. Feeling sick? Avoid harboring germs by replacing your toothbrush at the beginning and end of your illness.

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Woman looking at cheese display
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Say Cheese for White Teeth!

The casein and whey protein in cheese can help keep your tooth enamel in top form by reducing demineralization. A bonus: Cheese also has vital, tooth-building calcium. Don't forget to include vitamin D in your diet, which helps your body absorb calcium. A few vitamin D-rich foods include milk, egg yolks, and fish.

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Red wine spilled on white carpet
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Stop Stains With Baking Soda

If your love of coffee, red wine, or other tooth-staining food and drink is leaving your pearly whites dim, try brushing baking soda on your teeth twice a month, just like you would toothpaste, then rinse away to help brighten your smile. If plain baking soda irritates your teeth or gums, you may want to try a toothpaste that contains baking soda or avoid it completely.

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Woman biting into strawberry
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Foods Can Stain or Brighten Teeth

There's been speculation that strawberries may have natural teeth-whitening properties, but so far, it hasn't been proven. It's best to brush thoroughly after eating teeth-staining food like blueberries, coffee, and cigarettes. To help minimize discoloration, brush, then munch on apples, pears, carrots, or celery, all of which trigger tooth-bathing saliva, which helps keep your teeth bright.

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Man with acid reflux
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Regulate Your Acid Reflux

If you have acid reflux, you'll want to get it under control to help preserve tooth enamel and oral health. Common foods and drinks that trigger reflux include chocolate; alcohol; caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, and tea; garlic and onions; dairy; tomatoes; citrus fruits; mint; and spicy, fatty, or fried foods.

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Woman using tongue scraper
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Take Care of Your Tongue

Tackle bad breath every time you brush -- take time to brush or scrape your tongue, too. Your tongue plays host to the bacteria that help cause bad breath, so giving it a scrub, or using a tongue scraper daily, can help reduce odor-causing compounds.

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Woman with dry mouth
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Medication Can Cause Dry Mouth

Your mouth needs saliva to stay healthy, but hundreds of medications, like antidepressants, high blood pressure drugs, and antihistamines, can dry up saliva. Medication is the most common cause of dry mouth. To help keep your mouth moist, increase your fluid intake, ask your dentist about an artificial saliva product, or chew sugarless gum after a meal.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 06/06/2016 Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on June 06, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1)    Altrendo Images / Altrendo
2)    Purestock / Getty Images
3)    Hola Images / Getty
4)    Tony Hutchings / Photographers Choice
5)    Fuse / Getty Images
6)    iStockphoto
7)    Jupiter Images
8)    Image Source / Photolibrary
9)    Patrick Jelen
10)    Marco Baass / Getty Images

REFERENCES:

Academy of General Dentistry.
American Dental Association.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association; nutritionist, New York City and Woodmere, N.Y.
Daniel Mausner, MD, section head of gastroenterology, Mercy Medical Center, Rockville Center, N.Y.
Deepa A. Vasudevan, MD, assistant professor of family medicine, University of Texas Medical School, Houston.
Putt, M. Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 2008.
Robynne Chutkan, MD, founder, Digestive Center for Women, Chevy Chase, Md.; gastroenterologist, Georgetown Hospital, Washington, D.C.

Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on June 06, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.