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5 tips for dental care when you can’t see your dentist

Woman flossing her teeth in front of a mirror.

When it comes to preventive oral care, nothing is as effective as regular trips to the dentist. But if your scheduled dental cleaning and oral exam has been canceled or delayed, it’s more crucial than ever to take proactive steps at home to safeguard your oral health.

Here are five tips for a strong oral care routine from Delta Dental’s Daniel Croley, DMD, vice president for network development. Following this advice can help keep your smile healthy until you can get to your dentist.

1. Brush up on your technique.

Take the time to make sure your brushing technique is at its best. Dr. Croley recommends brushing for two full minutes, twice a day, on each surface of every tooth. Don’t brush too hard! Instead, use a gentle circular motion with a soft-bristled brush, since hard bristles may erode your tooth enamel and harm your gums. You can set a timer on your phone to ensure you’re brushing long enough. And don’t forget your tongue! Plaque and debris can build up there and cause bad breath.

2. Don’t forget flossing.

Flossing is important in order to remove disease-causing bacteria between your teeth and below your gumline – spots that your toothbrush can’t reach. When you can’t see your dentist, flossing every day is still the best defense you can have against gum disease. If you have difficulty flossing because of braces, bridge work or dexterity issues, Dr. Croley advises trying a floss aid such as a threader or pick to get those hard-to-reach places.

3. Say “yes” to fluoride.

Fluoride is a mineral compound that helps prevent tooth decay. It promotes remineralization, which is useful for building tooth enamel after it naturally erodes throughout the day. Be sure to select a toothpaste that contains fluoride and that has the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. You can find a variety of flavors and whitening agents in fluoridated toothpaste, so there’s a fluoride option for almost any preference.

4. Drink plenty of water.

Here’s to your health! Drinking water not only provides hydration but also works as a natural cleanser for your teeth and mouth. It neutralizes acids that can lead to tooth decay and, as an added benefit, fluoride is in the tap water in most communities. (See No. 2 for why that’s a good thing.)

5. Make smarter snacking choices.

Sugar is the fuel that causes tooth decay. Limiting sugar in your food choices reduces the risk of tooth decay. Eating the right foods can go a long way toward improving your oral health, which can help you cut down on non-essential dentist appointments. Additionally, eating crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, baby carrots and celery can stimulate saliva flow to help naturally clean your mouth. Need another smart choice for chewing? Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva flow in your mouth, which helps to neutralize acids that cause tooth decay.

Although there’s no replacement for regular visits to the dentist, these guidelines can help prevent long-term damage when your regular care is disrupted. While these tips can be your best defense against long-term tooth or gum damage, dental emergencies can happen. If you experience a dental emergency or need urgent dental advice, consider using teledentistry. Your dentist may be able to provide a virtual consultation over the phone to determine whether an in-person visit is needed.

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Published: April 2020

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.