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Pictured above: Stephenie Graham graduated from Fones School of Dental Hygiene at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, CT in 2012. She has been a champion of oral health serving in community health settings her entire career. She currently serves at Interfaith Dental, a nonprofit charity that helps vulnerable populations achieve and sustain a healthy smile! Learn more and donate at www.interfaithdental.com.
Having emergency tissues, safety pins or a flashlight handy can keep you ready to combat a number of everyday mishaps. But how’s your preparedness when it comes to a healthy smile?
Here are five things your hygienist recommends you have on hand for promoting healthy teeth habits:
1. Dental Floss
Removing that irritating sliver of food from between your teeth is worth the small amount of space a spool of floss takes up in your purse or desk drawer. Getting rid of food debris and plaque also protects tooth enamel from decay and helps with fresh breath. In a pinch, floss picks are just as helpful and have the added benefit of having a handle for less mess!
You’ll never have to wonder if you have a piece of food between your teeth if you have a small mirror for quick check-ins. However, having a cell phone with a front-facing camera works just as well and is easier to keep on hand. Plus, it will look like you are just taking a selfie!
3. Healthy Snacks & Drinks
Having a healthy snack available makes it less likely for you to reach towards a sugary option. Whole fruits, nuts, seeds and beef jerky are all good options to help prevent cavities and may benefit your overall health as well. And water not only helps you stay hydrated but helps with optimal salivary function. Not sipping on sugary beverages throughout the day will help keep your mouth from being continually acidic and increasing your chance of producing cavities.
4. Sugar-Free Gum or Mints
Grabbing a sugar-free mint or piece of gum helps stimulate saliva, which rinses sugars and food from your teeth. What’s a good sugar alternative? Let’s talk about xylitol! Gum and mints sweetened with xylitol is another good choice. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is used in place of sugar. It is just as sweet but contains 33 percent fewer calories. The sweeteners in xylitol actually interfere with the growth of bacteria and reduce the acids caused by other sugars and starches in the foods you eat, effectively protecting your tooth enamel. You can also chew gum to freshen your breath and distract you from habits that harm your teeth, such as tooth grinding or nail biting.
5. Travel Toothpaste and Toothbrush
No better way to achieve a mid-day mouth refresh than having a toothbrush and toothpaste handy. Brushing your tongue, teeth and gums with a fluoride toothpaste after lunch or a particularly smelly snack can also help thwart halitosis. But even without the threat of bad breath, brushing your teeth twice a day or more can help remove plaque and stop plaque build-up. A small travel toothbrush and toothpaste can fit into your purse or desk drawer easily so it’s always on hand.
Of course, keeping these things handy is no substitute for regular dental habits like brushing and flossing after meals and before bed, seeing your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings, and reducing or eliminating sugary snacks and drinks. Addressing your oral hygiene health sooner rather than later can save you from bigger and more expensive dental care down the road.
If you currently don’t have a dentist, you can find one in your area by clicking the “Find a Dentist” link below.