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Need a little TLC for your teeth?
With some dental offices still closed except for emergency procedures, your mouth’s health could head south. But you can keep your oral hygiene on the high road by taking extra special care of your chompers and gums. After all, although regular visits to your dentist and hygienist are important, much of your mouth’s health depends on what you do at home every day.
Here are five ways you can pour a little love on your pearly whites.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed these days, you’re definitely not alone. An ABC/Washington Post poll found that 70 percent of people are experiencing stress due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Short-term stress can leave us feeling like we pulled a college-era all-nighter — anxious, frazzled, and grumpier than the Grinch. But long-term, chronic stress can do a number on our immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses of all kinds, including gum disease. Stress can also cause us to clench or grind our gnashers (aka bruxism), leading to jaw problems or worn-down teeth.
Rather than let this info further spiral you into a stressnado — or try to ignore or dismiss your uneasy feelings — instead make a conscious effort to manage your stress.
Researchers Kari Leibowitz and Alia Crum at Stanford University wrote in the New York Times that by facing and embracing our stress, “... we can actually use that stress to improve our health and well-being. Over a decade of research — ours and that of others — suggests that it’s not the type or amount of stress that determines its impact. Instead, it’s our mind-set about stress that matters most.”
Liebowitz and Crum suggest three steps to manage stress:
1. See and acknowledge stress. Labeling it helps to “[move] us from operating from a fearful, reactive place to a position where we can be thoughtful and deliberate.”
2. Own your stress. Realize that “we only stress about things that we care about. By owning our stress, we connect to the positive motivation or personal value behind our stress.”
3. Use your stress. “Leverage stress to achieve your goals and connect more deeply with the things that matter most.”
Another antidote to anxiety: self-care. We’ve gathered a bouquet of ideas to help you care for yourself and stay sane in the era of social-distancing.
Cavities love to form in dry environments. When you’re parched, there’s nothing to wash away the food particles and sugar that fuel bad bacteria, along with the enamel-eating acids they produce. It’s like Coachella for cavity-causing microbes.
Hello, H20, nature’s headliner drink. Water cleanses away crumbs and pigments that can turn your teeth into a not-so-lovely shade of café au lait. It’s also the primary ingredient in saliva — your body’s first line of defense against tooth decay. Saliva neutralizes acids, swooshes away snacky debris, and also contains disease-fighting substances. Ka-pow!
So make your water bottle your bestie. Carry it around with you and drink whenever you feel thirsty. How much you need to drink can vary based on your exercise level, sex, and other factors, but most women need around 9 cups per day and men clock in at 13 cups. Gulp.
Sales of pretzels, chips, and cookies are soaring since the coronavirus outbreak. It’s no wonder people are turning to crunchy, processed comfort foods while they try to cope. As the weeks pass by, though, all these snacks made of simple carbs will prompt oral bacteria to start secreting acid, which can cause tooth decay. Cavity-causing bacteria love Oreos, too.
So while it’s understandable if that bag of Kettle Chips keeps calling your name, it’s also a good idea to throw some healthier snacks in the mix. Try cutting up pieces of fibrous fruits and veggies, like apples or celery, if you can snag them at the store. Other superfoods for your smile include strawberries and leafy greens.
Can’t find any fresh produce? Calcium-rich foods, like cheeses, are another good option to munch on to keep your teeth strong. Sounds gouda to us.
Here are more tips from the Los Angeles Times on what to snack on to support your overall health during the quarantine.
Every time you eat or drink something other than water, the pH in your mouth becomes more acidic — and that’s when the cavity-causing bacteria especially come out to play. This is their ideal environment for throwing a plaque party, which can trash your tooth enamel and gum health.
“Grazing” or constantly nibbling can keep your mouth in a consistent state of acidity. So while your favorite snack may keep reeling you back in like a so-bad-it’s-good soap opera, you need to take breaks in between your eating times so your mouth has a chance to restore its pH balance.
Other things you can do to neutralize oral acid after eating include drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum, which boosts the production of saliva — your mouth’s cure-all.
You can also pair acidic foods (such as citrus fruits and juices, sour candies, wine, and coffee ) with higher pH nibbles such as cheese, nuts, whole grains, apples, and vegetables. Yes! Another excuse to eat cheese!
Want to sign up your teeth for a lifetime of good health and happiness? Of course you do. Then make flossing and brushing a non-negotiable part of your self-care routine.
The American Dental Association recommends you follow the 2x2 rule — brush your teeth twice a day (in the morning and before bed) for at least two minutes each time. That helps prevent the plaque created by the bacteria in our mouths from hardening into decay-causing tartar. If you go too many hours between brushing or don’t brush for long enough, bad bacteria can set up shop and wreak havoc on teeth and gums. We have a primer on how to properly brush in our post “10 Secrets to a Sparkling Smile.”
BTW, two minutes is about the length of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin or “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles. Our post on raising floss fanatics includes a list of toothbrushing tunes that don’t resemble Raffi.
Now is also a great time to perfect your flossing routine. So next time you floss, watch yourself in the mirror. Are you gently working the floss in between your teeth, then creating a C-shape on both sides of your tooth and shimmying the floss all the way up and down? If not, we have a fun video on how to floss party that can help you become a pro flosser in no time!
You can also sign up for our 21-Day Floss Challenge and commit to building a healthy habit and get on track to keeping your #teeth4lyfe! (We’ll send you daily floss motivation and you’ll get a chance to win a year’s worth of Cocofloss!)
Then make it easy to stick with your flossing routine by signing up to receive a customized CocoBox, filled with your favorite fragrances of Cocofloss and delivered to your doorstep every six months.
Another trick to remind you that it’s high time to floss: Keep your floss nearby, like on the nightstand or by the TV. So next time you turn on “Love is Blind” or an armchair travel adventure, consider grabbing some Cocofloss while you watch.
When you’re able to see your hygienist and dentist again, they’ll be so grateful you gave your teeth some extra TLC. Until then, it’s more important than ever that we lovingly care for our smiles so we can keep them in steady, sparkling supply.