4 Ways to Maintain Healthy Teeth and a Beautiful Smile

New York City cosmetic dentist Dr. Husam Almunajed of Empire Dental Aesthetics shares his tips for maintaining the long-term health and appearance of your teeth, and the good news is most of it takes place at home.

Advances in technology, science and research have changed the field of dentistry. Today, dentists are more focused on prevention than ever, and this approach has replaced the “drill, fill and bill” mentality of decades past. However, prevention (and early intervention) may require office-based procedures. Here are a few treatments that can help protect your teeth and avoid more extensive dental work down the line—as well as tips for making the most of your at-home care between visits to the dentist.

Small cavities
Drilling-and-filling isn’t the only way to address cavities, and smaller ones can be treated non-invasively with a material called MI Paste, which is essentially a high dose of fluoride that is applied to the tooth to rebuild enamel, or recalcify the tooth. Early cavity detection is essential for this treatment, which is yet another reason why regular dental visits are so important.

Old restorations
Many patients subscribe to a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy when it comes to dental work—but all fillings, crowns and other dental restorations should be replaced or heavily scrutinized every eight years. The main reason to adhere to this timeline is to prevent the spread of cavities that can develop beneath these restorations. The longer a patient waits to replace them, the higher chance that there will be more extensive problems once they are eventually removed. If decay spreads without being detected, it may erode away too much healthy tooth structure, and the tooth may require a more extensive restoration, root canal, or worse yet, the patient could end up losing the tooth if it is deemed unrestorable.

Daily maintenance
The best way to keep your teeth healthy is to brush well morning and night, floss and use mouthwash at bedtime, and visit the dentist twice a year. If your teeth are prone to particular issues (including cavities, sensitivity or gum inflammation), your dentist will customize an at-home plan to meet your teeth’s specific needs.

An electric toothbrush can greatly enhance the quality and effectiveness of at-home oral care. Believe it or not, most patients do not know how to use a manual toothbrush properly—and very few brush for the full two minutes necessary. Improper brushing can lead to plaque buildup, swollen gums, cavities and overall poor oral health. Electric toothbrushes help remove plaque and are able to get into hard-to-reach places like between the teeth and under the gums, and most feature a timer that tells you when you’re done. Remember, the proper care at home can minimize time spent in the dentist’s chair years from now.

Stress management
Stress and anxiety can be major health hazards that affect the body from head to toe—including the teeth. This is why it is so important to find healthy ways to cope with day-to-day stress. Tooth grinding can wear away one millimeter of tooth structure per year if undiagnosed. Clenchers may not see any immediate signs of wear on their teeth, but the pressure clenching puts on your teeth is destructive. It slowly breaks down the supporting bone around the teeth, leading to gum recession, bone loss and eventual tooth loss. Patients who fall into either of these categories should wear a night guard.

Your dentist can offer you many treatments and procedures to maintain the health and longevity of your teeth, but it’s most important that your dentist spends an adequate amount of time with you at every appointment to answer questions and give you recommendations that are in the best interest of your teeth. This may sound rather simple, but your dentist is your partner in oral health and you should feel comfortable and confident in their level of care. With that said, have you scheduled your next routine exam?