I am (a little too) proud to announce that at my teeth cleaning appointment last week I reached my six year cavity free anniversary! While hearing my dentist compliment my oral hygiene habits likely means a little too much to me, her encouraging smile is not the only reason I am so happy to be without cavities.
Once upon a time, say about six years ago, I was about to get braces put on my teeth. Before my teeth were bound together with steel, I had to have the dentist check my teeth for any dental work that may need to be done. Low and behold, I not only had some cavities that needed to be taken care of…I also needed a crown and a root canal. At the time I was making about $36,000/year and spending a couple thousand dollars on dental work was not a part of my budget. This was particularly true given the fact that I was already paying for braces. However, I had to make it a part of my budget. I had to use (pretty much all of) my savings to cover the necessary procedures.
After I had paid all of my bills, it struck me just how much money could be saved over a lifetime just by taking good care of my teeth. There are the cavities ($135 to $240 per filling), the root canals ($500 to $1000 per procedure), the crowns (approximately $1,200), the tooth extractions ($180 – 400 per tooth), the dentures ($400 – $8,000), or dental implants (between $1,500 to $3,000 per tooth). On and on it goes.
Here’s the thing, though. All of these costs can be prevented. Sure, we get older, and our teeth are bound to denigrate over time. However, much of this is largely in our control. We can save a lot of money by keeping both our teeth and our gums healthy. Below I will share my dentist approved oral hygiene regimen including my very favorite tip to make saving money at the dentist super easy!
Oral Hygiene Basics
Here are some standard tips for keeping your mouth healthy:
1. Brushing: Good brushing habits were built into my routine when I got braces. You see, during those couple of years, I always carried a toothbrush and toothpaste with me because, well, braces can make the process of eating just about anything rather barbaric. Ideally you would brush twice per day. However, it is super easy to keep a tooth brush and tooth paste in your bag to brush your teeth after meals away from home as well. Here is a video with good brushing tips.
2. Say No to Snacking: Snacking between meals creates a breeding ground for bad stuff to grow inside of your mouth. Bacteria feed off of the very sugars and carbohydrates that are in most of our food. They eat that food and then, basically, go potty in our mouth, which causes plaque to form. Just think about that for a bit. I’ll wait. [lobby music] Gross, right? Now you have even more incentive to eat a healthy diet and brush your teeth after meals.
3. Think about Mouthwash: My dentist is of the belief that mouth wash is not super necessary. I asked about some newer options I saw on the market that are specifically for gum health, and she still seemed less than enthused. Mouthwash is clearly not a substitute for brushing, but isn’t harmful…unless the mouthwash contains alcohol. There is some debate on whether alcohol-based mouthwashes contribute to oral cancer. Dentists can also provide a prescription for mouthwash that will help your gums if they are in bad shape from an infection standpoint.
4. Pick Up Some Phos-Flur: I learned about this magical stuff from the orthodontist. Phos-Flur prevents “decalcification” of teeth (i.e., cavaties). You know those white spots that can form on teeth? Well, those are the early signs of cavities. This stuff prevents those white spots and can also reharden areas that have grown soft. You can get Phos-Flur in a mouthwash or a gel form. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
My #1 Tip for Strong Teeth
So what’s my number one tip? Flossing! Well, that’s not new information because everyone knows flossing leads to a healthy mouth (and some even know it leads to a healthy heart), but I have a twist! I will leave you with my number one tip for making sure that you floss every day. I actually got this tip from my dental hygienist, and I love it. So here it is:
5. Build flossing into your shower routine. You can do this by putting a roll of tooth floss in your shower next to your shampoo and stuff. Here is a video on proper flossing.
Let me tell you a couple reasons why this is genius.
1. Making flossing a routine is nearly all of the battle. It has almost always been the case that I floss really well…right after I got to the dentist and in the week leading up to the dentist. Building it into my routine permanently proved nearly impossible (especially since I travel a lot). However, since I put a roll of floss in the shower, it’s been built into my daily routine.
2. Flossing your teeth can be an icky mess. Let’s just be honest, flossing makes you a drooling mess, and, let’s be more honest, can cause gross projectiles to fly onto your mirror. That’s not an issue when you floss in the shower because, well, you’re in the shower.
There you are. Those are the tips I have used to stay cavity free for six years. Care to join me?