Want Stronger, Healthier Teeth? Start With These 7 Tips
I'm one of those people with annoyingly perfect teeth, and at 32 years old I have never had a cavity. Last year, my dentist even kept a scan of my tooth as an example of an ideal tooth. The point is, I was blessed with lovely teeth genes and haven’t ever worried too much about my chompers.
But then my world crumbled when my dentist pointed to the formation of a tiny grayish triangle creeping into my normally solid wall of white enamel and said, "This is the start of a baby cavity." She then told me that the cavity was small, so we would wait and see if I could "re-mineralize" it on my own before looking at other options. Re-mineralizing is a term used to describe a natural process when teeth absorb minerals like calcium and phosphate to fill in voids.
Later that night, I started researching and learned about all the amazing ways your teeth can take care of themselves with a little extra TLC. Thus began my journey to conquer the "baby cavity" with a seven-step plan:
1. Use a tongue scraper.
First, scrape you tongue in the morning before you brush your teeth. This is an easy way to up your dental care regime and is recommended1 by ayurvedic practitioners and scientists alike to effectively remove harmful toxins and bacteria, leading to a healthier oral environment.
2. Gargle with salt water.
Next, gargle a warm glass with ¼ of a teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces of water. The idea here is that this will alkalinize your mouth and stop bacteria from forming, reducing inflammation.
3. Use a straw.
Drink your morning lemon water or ACV through a straw to ensure that your teeth are safe from the acid.
4. Swish with a baking soda rinse.
After breakfast, rinse your mouth with ¼ a teaspoon of baking soda and 8 ounces of water to balance your mouth's pH.
5. Invest in a fancy floss.
Look for a high-quality floss that seems to have a bit more "scrub" to it. Some are even infused with tea tree oil (an antimicrobial) or other beneficial ingredients like coconut oil to make flossing a more luxurious experience.
6. Try a natural mouthwash.
Try using a natural mouth wash like Spry in the evenings. Natural mouthwashes won’t kill all the bacteria in your mouth; they will promote a healthy oral environment—which is important for optimal health.
7. Chew on xylitol gum.
Chew on sugar-free, aspartame-free, plastic-free, natural xylitol-sweetened gum like Glee Gum. Xylitol may increase salivation, helping to reduce cavities and plaque. More research is needed, but the author of one study2 did note, "the benefits it offers are literally worth salivating over," which was good enough for me to test it out post-lunch.
Following this plan, I’ve learned how taking time to really improve one area of my life can dramatically affect other areas. For instance, because I usually chew a piece of tooth-friendly sugar-free gum after lunch I find that I no longer have the same afternoon cravings for coffee or sugar cookies that I used to. Taking care of my teeth to the max has translated into taking care of my nutrition and health to the max, too. Now, before I reach for starchy potato chips I’ll think about whether that’s a choice that helps me reach my goal of no more "baby cavities."
The interesting thing is that science—to some degree—is on my side here. Dentists, nutritionists, and doctors are starting to understand the connection between dental health and overall health. Many people cite dentist Weston A. Price's work looking at indigenous cultures diets and teeth as proof of this connection, but the scientific validity of his work has come under fire for his sample size and research methodology. Regardless of what you believe about Dr. Price, we've known that sugar is bad for your teeth for years, and now there are scientific studies that highlight the benefits of eating a low-sugar, low-carb diet for overall health. For instance, the World Health Organization now recommends that individuals, "reduce the frequency with which they consume foods containing free sugars to four times a day and thereby limit the amount of free sugars consumed."
The American Dental Association’s website now features an entire section about what foods to eat for healthy teeth. ADA’s site supports eating a healthy diet that includes dairy (which is low in sugar and rich in calcium), lean proteins that can help strengthen teeth, fruits and vegetables (which balance sugar and when chewed produce saliva that rinses acids off teeth), and nuts because they are low in carbohydrates, which activate tooth decay.
So, if you are looking to boost your health, nutrition, and wellness, why not start with something as simple as improving your dental care? The benefits of doing so will extend beyond your radiant minty-fresh smile.
Ever wonder what your smile says about your health? Here's your answer.
Joanna L. McWilliams is a writer and editor. She is also the creator and co-host of the forthcoming Yoga Minds Podcast. Her work has appeared in outlets such as NationalGeographic.com, the United Nations' publications, American Cowboy magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, etc. She holds an M.A. in journalism and mass communications from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is an avid hiker, scuba diver, and yogi. Her perfect morning involves banana pancakes and chai. She lives in California with her husband and cattle dog Baker. Say hi to her on Instagram and Twitter.