17 Ways To Keep Your Teeth & Gums Healthy Without Seeing A Dentist

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How To Keep Your Teeth Healthy & White Without Seeing A Dentist
Health And Wellness

We are all living in an unprecedented time where most businesses are shut down or running limited services.

Unfortunately, that includes our dentists. Dental offices are only allowed to perform emergency procedures and delay all preventative, restorative and elective procedures until the world can reopen again. 

That's why this guide for how to keep your teeth healthy should be your go-to for oral care.

RELATED: The 6 Main Reasons Your Teeth Get Yellow (And How To Reverse It)

The most important thing is to be consistent, and nothing beats basic oral hygiene at home in maintaining your overall oral health.

Says Dr. Lawrence Fung, DDS of Silicon Beach Dental, “Brush twice a day for 2 minutes, floss, and rinse.” Also floss after eating to remove any gunk stuck in between your teeth.

But aside from your very basic oral care, these tips will help you keep your gums healthy, and your teeth safe and bright, while avoiding a dental emergency.

1. Learn proper brushing techniques.

Brushing your teeth twice a day is a great start, but there’s a correct way to do so.

"By making sure you choose the right brush — such as one with soft, rounded bristles to avoid damaging your enamel — you can avoid creating weak spots that are prone to decay. You should also change your brush every 4-6 months. Electric toothbrushes are excellent and also have timers to ensure we spend adequate time to be thorough in removing plaque," says Dr. Samuel Low, chief dental officer of BIOLASE.

In addition to your teeth, you will also want to brush your gums and tongue. Adds Low, "Failing to do so can cause inflammation and irritation, and, again, lead to decay. Brush your tongue as far back as possible, and then use mouthwash once a day to rinse the areas thoroughly with an antibacterial solution."

2. Switch out your regular oral care products for microbiome-safe counterparts.

What does this mean? 

“Alcohol mouthwashes and antimicrobial toothpastes are created with the intention of killing the bacteria that causes gum disease and cavities,” advises Dr. Kourosh Maddahi, DDS, a dentist based in Beverly Hills, CA. "Because 98 percent of the bacteria in the mouth is actually beneficial, you should opt for non-toxic versions that are designed to neutralize the toxins of the harmful bacteria, without disturbing the protective microbiome of the mouth.”

3. Refrain from drinking acidic and carbonated beverages.

Some of us are well aware that acidic foods and drinks can erode the enamel on our teeth.

“Consuming shots of apple cider vinegar, while being popular in wellness circles right now, is detrimental to your oral microbiome, along with carbonated beverages like sparkling water. Both can seriously disrupt oral microbiome health and even erode enamel over time,” warns Dr. Maddahi.

If you’re consuming apple cider vinegar regularly, make sure it's diluted with water, and use a straw. 

4. Protect yourself against dry mouth.

Saliva acts as a natural (and microbiome safe) antibiotic and defense mechanism in the mouth. However, certain medications, such as some antidepressants and heart prescriptions, as well as various lifestyle habits, like vaping, can contribute to dry mouth.

Dr. Maddahi recommends drinking plenty of water and using a hydrating mouthwash that will naturally moisturize oral tissues, while encouraging healthy saliva flow to better protect against infection.

5. Don’t share toothpaste.

If you're quarantined with someone, don't share the same tube of toothpaste.

Instead, says Dr. Fung, “You can opt for Hello’s Toothpaste T Tablets. They are so easy to use, and they taste and perform like regular toothpaste.”

This alternative also helps prevent cross-contamination. All you do is chew it and it foams up like a normal toothpaste.

RELATED: 25 Best Mouth Guards And Products To Stop Teeth Grinding

6. Opt for an electric toothbrush.

Dr. Fung recommends brushing with an electric toothbrush, especially one that gets into all the nooks and crannies to brush away gunk. And there are plenty of options out there.

“You should also make sure you’re replacing your brush head once every three months, or when the bristles are fraying,” Dr. Fung recommends.

7. Always floss your teeth.

Don’t forget to clean in between your teeth! A toothbrush is unable to get between the spaces in the teeth where food can easily get stuck. Flossing is also equally important to brushing, because when you don’t floss consistently and correctly, you end up with plaque build-up

"By taking time to use floss or other go-between devices, you ensure nothing is living between the teeth too long, which can build up tooth-eating bacteria. Interdental cleaning can prevent cavities, gingivitis and other oral health problems. Another benefit is that it stimulates the gums and helps lower inflammation," Low says. 

8. Perform your best oral hygiene routine before bed.

Since the mouth is closed during sleep, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. That's why pulling out all the bells and whistles before you go to sleep can help keep your teeth and gums health.

“Not only does plaque cause bad breath, but all that trapped bacteria can lead to gingivitis,” advises Dr. Fung. “There are a lot of studies showing the linkage between gingivitis and heart disease, so that’s why it’s important to floss.”

9. Try Ayurvedic gum pulling.

Also known as Ayurvedic oil pulling, it's an ancient practice that involves swishing oil in your mouth, in the area affected, to remove bacteria, toxins and promote oral health.

“This is a way to reduce gum bleeding and puffy, red, inflamed gums,” says cosmetic dentist Dr. Marc Lazare, DDS, MAGD.

Here’s how you do it: Take a teaspoon of oil, preferably sunflower, sesame or coconut oil. Swish hard in that area, “pulling” the oil back and forth through the teeth of the area affected. Do this for 15-20 minutes at least, once per day, to relieve the discomfort and reduce the inflammation.

10. Be mindful of what you eat.

Be aware of the kinds of foods you're eating, and incorporate specific foods into your diet. All of these help with your oral health.

“Lemon water is generally good, but be careful not to drink too much as it’s very acidic and can weaken enamel. Don’t drink this immediately after brushing your teeth. Also, add fibrous food like celery, apples, hydrating fruits, and green tea,” recommends Dr. Fung. 

11. Avoid eating popcorn and seeds.

The shells of popcorn and seeds can get lodged between your teeth and gums, causing them to get swollen, inflamed, and then bleed.

Warns Dr. Lazare, “These are hard to work out yourself, and sometimes flossing and digging for it may push it down further into the pocket. To avoid seeing your dentist for an emergency, be more aware of avoiding things that can get shoved down inside those gum pockets.”

12. Take test bites of your food.

Many times, we may take a bite of foods that have seeds or pits, unaware that this can lead to broken teeth.

Says Dr. Lazare, “One of the main reasons people come into my dental office for emergencies is because they broke a tooth, and usually after biting into something hard.”

To avoid a broken tooth — whether it’s an olive pit, cherry pit, un-popped kernel of corn — take a "test bite" and slowly close your mouth first to make sure nothing hard is in the way. Then, fully chew.

RELATED: 17 Ways To Whiten Teeth Faster For A Natural, Pearly-White Smile

13. Never use your teeth to open packages!

While our gut may tell us to open bags or wrappers with our teeth, this is a huge no-no.

“Avoid tearing any labels, tags, tape, or wrappers with those front teeth to avoid chipping, and be extra careful not to bite down on the tine of your fork. This will save you money, frustration, time, and help you to avoid the need to be seen during this time for an emergency dental visit,” warns Dr. Lazare.

14. Avoid eating anything too chewy.

Anything too chewy, like a toffee or caramel, can potentially pull off those temporary or permanent crowns, onlays, or failing fillings. “If this happens, you would need to see your dentist to help re-cement or repair those restorations,” Dr. Lazare reveals.

However, during times like these when your dentist isn’t able to see you, try to limit candies and foods that may cause this to become necessary. Instead, stick to soft foods that don't stick to your teeth.

15. Eat foods that help maintain the brightness of your teeth.

Which foods help brighten your teeth? Suggests Dr. Lazare, there are a few foods that do this.

“Apples and celery stimulate salivary flow and are a high fiber foods that have a scrubbing and cleaning effect on the teeth. Strawberries may help reverse some beverage staining due to their astringency. Cheese increases the pH level in your mouth, which can translate into less erosion and discoloration.”

16. Avoid food and drinks that stain teeth.

While now, more than ever, we're taking to bottles of wine, coffee, and other drinks, these may be causing tooth stains.

“Heavy consumption of beverages that we should avoid if we want whiter teeth include: red wine, dark teas, coffee, vegetable juices, and hot chocolate. Certain foods may also contribute to the darkening of your teeth including: beats, marinara-type sauces, deep red cherries, colored icings, ice pops, jello desserts, and anything with excessive food coloring,” warns Dr. Lazare.

17. Try at-home whitening.

Dr. Jennifer Jablow DDS says that Peroxide is the only way to whiten and kill germs in the mouth. "Drugstore whitening toothpastes have very little peroxide or zero peroxide, and remove only surface stains with harsh abrasives," she warns.

To achieve true whitening inside the pores of our teeth, add a separate hydrogen peroxide gel booster to your toothbrush, side by side with your toothpaste to whiten as you brush. She recommends trying intelliWHiTE Power Boost Daily Teeth Whitening Gel.

But in case of an emergency...

If you do have a dental emergency — for instance, feeling pain that makes your jaw clench — call your dentist.

According to the ADA, we are allowed to see emergency cases, and there are precautions we take in the office to keep everyone as safe as possible,” concludes Dr. Fung.

RELATED: 20 Best Toothpastes To Get Rid Of Bad Breath

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.