Ensure your family’s teeth last a lifetime.

Your teeth are perfectly designed to help you carry out daily tasks like eating, speaking, and expressing your emotions through facial expressions. Going to the dentist every six months is an essential part of keeping your family’s teeth healthy and ensuring they last an entire lifetime; without regular care and visits to the dentist, you may experience oral health issues that can affect the function of your teeth and the health of your entire body.

While social distancing mandates have left thousands of families without access to dental care, you can protect your family’s oral health at home by adjusting a few of your daily habits so your family’s teeth will be healthy when you’re able to visit Dr. Lang for your next evaluation. Here are 10 ways you can keep your family’s teeth healthy without access to dental care.

1. Brush your teeth the right way.

Brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day is essential for maintaining your oral health at home, but the way you go about brushing your teeth really matters. Scrubbing your teeth too hard can actually damage your enamel over time, leading to issues like tooth sensitivity; as a result, it’s best to use a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush to ensure you don’t damage your tooth enamel. You and your family should brush your teeth and tongue—which, like teeth, collects a film of plaque that needs to be cleaned off—with fluoridated toothpaste that fights cavities and strengthens teeth.

2. Treat flossing just like you would brushing.

Flossing removes food debris from between your teeth, cleans the sides of your teeth, and breaks up the plaque that gathers at your gumline—jobs your toothbrush can’t do. If plaque isn’t removed from these areas, you can develop cavities or gum disease, the latter of which can lead to tooth loss despite often being painless. This makes flossing just as important to your oral health as brushing your teeth, so your family should commit to taking a couple of minutes to floss at least once a day.

3. Don’t skimp on your oral hygiene routine.

Your oral health isn’t just isolated to your mouth; it also impacts the health of your entire body. An unhealthy mouth can lead to a myriad of problems throughout your body in both the short and long term, potentially weakening your immune system, causing infections, and increasing your chances of heart disease, stroke, and more. On the other hand, maintaining your oral health can strengthen your immune system and help you stay healthier throughout the year. So don’t skip or rush through your oral hygiene routine because you’re in a hurry or are tired at the end of the day; ensuring you and your kids take just a few minutes to do a thorough job helps your whole family stay healthier in the long run.

4. Be picky about the mouthwash you choose.

Be sure to choose a mouthwash that’s intended to improve your health by fighting cavities or gingivitis, as well as freshening your breath. When you don’t have access to dental care, it may be a good idea to switch to a total-care mouthwash. This type of mouthwash covers all the bases by freshening your breath, ridding your mouth of bad germs, preventing cavities, strengthening your teeth, and restoring your enamel. Mouthwashes that are proven to benefit your oral health will have the ADA Seal of Acceptance; you can also find the list of ADA-approved mouthwashes online.

5. Stick to a healthy diet.

The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars, producing acid that eats away at your enamel in the process, so sugary and starchy foods—which are easily broken down into sugars by the bacteria—are harmful to your teeth when eaten regularly. This is also why sweet and acidic drinks are bad for your teeth. Limiting these types of foods and drinks improves your family’s oral and overall health, which is especially important when you don’t have access to dental care. Instead, try to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein. This reduces your teeth’s exposure to harmful sugars and provides the vitamins and minerals your body needs to build strong, healthy teeth and bones.

6. Eat fewer snacks and drink plenty of water.

When you eat lots of little snacks or drink sweet drinks throughout the day, the bacteria in your mouth have an endless buffet of food, which increases the likelihood that you’ll get cavities. Your family doesn’t have to eat less, but simply eating one or two larger snacks instead of many and drinking water between meals can improve your oral health because it allows the mouth’s acidity levels to return to normal.

7. Start exercising regularly.

Exercising is good for your overall health, but there’s also mounting evidence saying it’s good for your oral health, too. Studies have shown that active people have lower chances of developing periodontitis; since both periodontitis and being overweight can increase your likelihood of stroke and heart disease, exercising regularly in a way that works for you can certainly be worth it for your overall and oral health. You can even take advantage of school closures to plan a family exercise schedule!

8. Try to curb habits that are harmful to your oral health.

Any form of tobacco use can harm your oral health; it makes you vulnerable to gum disease, slows healing, permanently stains your teeth, and increases your chances of developing oral cancer. You can actually spread harmful oral bacteria to your kids by sharing food and drinks, so it’s important for the whole family to have healthy mouths. Since your access to dental care is limited, now might be a good time to improve your oral health by kicking your tobacco habit. Another habit you might want to improve is grinding your teeth at night; it’s not a conscious habit, but you can use night guards to relieve jaw pain and prevent dental injuries.

9. Be kind to your teeth.

Teeth are strong and durable, but they’re also brittle, so you should only use them for jobs they’re intended to do. When you use your teeth to open packages, crack nuts, or crunch down on ice, you run the risk of cracking, breaking, or chipping your teeth; this can be very painful and often requires a trip to the emergency dentist. Even if you avoid a dental emergency, these activities will wear your teeth down over time, impacting their appearance and causing tooth sensitivity that will likely require future treatment.

10. Commit to healthy habits to slow the spread of existing decay.

If you’re aware that you already have a cavity but can’t get immediate treatment, you should commit to forming healthy habits to slow the spread of decay. Neglecting your oral health can worsen the cavity, potentially causing you to need a more major treatment like a root canal instead of a simple filling. Until you can get a filling, invest in a good toothpaste and mouthwash, stick to a great oral hygiene routine, and adjust bad habits to protect your teeth from further harm.

Although you may not have access to dental care right now, you can take steps to improve your oral hygiene and ensure you get a clean bill of health at your next appointment with Dr. Lang. You may even discover that improving your oral health also improves your overall health, helping you feel better throughout the year.