How to keep your teeth healthy

You don't really need to have your teeth checked every six months unless you have gum disease, smoke or have other high-risk factors for dental problems (such as diabetes). Studies comparing dental problems to the number of dentist visits find that visiting the dentist at least once a year (along with regular flossing and brushing) provides good dental health. These tips will show you how to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

How to keep your teeth healthy

1. Floss, floss and then floss again

Sure, it's something you tell your dentist you do, but deep inside you know it's been at least three years since you bought that unopened container of dental floss gathering dust at the bottom of your bathroom drawer. Well, it's time to pull it out.

Study after study confirms that having gum disease significantly increases your risk of not only tooth loss but also heart disease, and flossing can prevent gum disease. Diseased gums apparently release high levels of compounds that increase inflammation — everywhere in your body. So pull out the floss, toss it into your purse or pocket and use it after meals and before bed.

2. Try this new way to floss

Admit it — you'd rather clean under your fingernails with a scalpel than floss your teeth. What if we told you about a tool that's easier to use and works better than regular dental floss at reducing plaque and gum inflammation?

It's true — researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine compared flossing with BrushPicks (which have a narrow, three-sided blade at one end, and a probe with six bristles at the other end) with regular dental floss and found the "cleaning aid" was significantly better than the old-fashioned floss.

3. Use an electric toothbrush

Put a little spin in your morning routine with an electric toothbrush instead of a manual one. A review of 21 studies over the past 37 years found less dental plaque and gum disease in people who used the battery-powered tools.

4. Use an extract on that sore tooth

The pain from your sore tooth is so bad you're ready to tie one end of a string around it and the other around a doorknob and slam the door shut. Hang on. Before you destroy that beautiful grin, put a couple of drops of oil of clove on a cotton ball, put the cotton ball over your sore tooth and bite down. Hold for several minutes. This elixir made from the dried, unopened flower buds of the tropical clove tree is a great multitasker when it comes to tooth pain — numbing the pain and killing bacteria and other germs that could make whatever's causing the pain worse.

You can do the same thing with vanilla extract:

  • After three or four minutes of biting down, spit out the cotton ball and swish 175 millilitres (six ounces) water mixed with one grams (1/4 teaspoon) of salt and several drops of the extract in your mouth for 30 seconds.
  • This will kill more bacteria. Spit — don't swallow.
  • This solution is only temporary, however; make an appointment with your dentist to see what's causing the pain.
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