4 Things Your Dentist Wants You to Do Now

Want to jump-start the health of your pearly whites? Start with these must-dos.

Medically Reviewed by Eric Yabu, DDS on February 15, 2010
3 min read

Are your pearly whites starting to look not so pearly? Maybe it's time to treat your teeth with a little respect. Paul Vankevich, DMD, an assistant professor of general dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, speaks for dentists everywhere when he lists four things you can do right now for a mouth that looks and feels fabulous.

Kick the habit. Need another person in your life to explain why you need to quit smoking? Talk to your dentist. The nicotine and tar in cigarettes are not only turning your teeth an unsightly shade of yellow, but they're eating away at your gums. Smoking creates a ripe environment for bacteria and plaque on your teeth and along the gum lines. And that harms tissue and eventually increases your risk of tooth loss. Tobacco chemicals can also cause mouth sores that could turn into cancer.

Pay a visit. If you're prone to ditching the dentist, it turns out you're part of the roughly 50% of adults in the United States who don't see a dentist on a yearly basis because of "dentist- phobia," finances, or just plain neglect. Regular trips to the dentist can catch problems such as decay, gum disease, trauma, or cancer at an early stage when they're treatable -- and solutions are more affordable.

Brush right. Is your brushing technique below par? Maybe you don't brush often enough -- or worse, at all? It takes only about two minutes to properly clean your teeth and gums. Angle the brush 45 degrees toward your gum line, and use gentle, circular strokes. Make sure the bristles on the brush aren't bending; if they are, you're brushing too hard and wearing down your teeth and gums. Plaque is soft, Vankevich explains, and will brush away easily with light strokes.

Finesse flossing. Flossing is fundamental to keeping teeth and gums clean -- but only if you do it right. Snapping and popping your way through the process probably does more harm than good, causing friction on tissue and damage at the gum line. Instead, use about two inches of floss between your fingers, unroll a fresh section of floss for each tooth, and keep the floss tight against your tooth to break up plaque while leaving your gums in good shape.

Sugar has a bad reputation when it comes to teeth, and for good reason. It fuels bacteria and acid production in your mouth, causing plaque to form and eat away at your teeth and gums. Your chompers are hit with up to 20 minutes of acid production for every sugar-fest you indulge in, from sweetened coffee in the morning to ice cream at night.

The solution? It's all about sucrose discipline, explains Vankevich to help you avoid dental decay --a problem that 20% of people in the United States face every time they look in the mirror. Cut down on the sugar, and brush and floss twice a day to keep those pearly whites clean and acids under control.