Patients are finally beginning to file back into their doctors’ offices, and that includes the dentist. “Expect to see extra measures, from extra air filters, more personal protective gear, to patient temperature checks to keep everyone safe,” says New York cosmetic dentist Husam Almunajed, DDS.
If you can’t make it into your dentist’s office, or just need a bit more time to feel comfortable getting back into the chair, here are eight dentist-approved practices to keep up the health—and appearance—of your smile at home.
Change Your Diet
To naturally brighten your smile, Chevy Chase, MD cosmetic dentist Claudia C. Cotca, DDS says to change your diet for seven days. “Change to fruits and vegetables to see the difference. Teas, coffee and certain spices unfortunately will demand a more creative approach to combat, however it is not unachievable even at home.” She also adds that taking a sip of water after each bite or sip is “essential to optimal neutralization in real time, in addition to optimal nutritional absorption and a healthy metabolic process.”
Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist Kourosh Maddahi, DDS agrees with Dr. Cotca’s statement, but he also has a few disclaimers: “Avoid drinking staining liquid out of an open cup—a cup with a lid on it will help to limit the staining of the teeth.” He also warns against eating whole almonds and raw cashews as they can crack your teeth. “Instead, roasted cashews and sliced almonds would be best.”
“For the past 30 years, I have promoted rinsing with one-third water, one-third Listerine, and one-third hydrogen peroxide—all you do is splash all three in a cup and swish for 15-seconds,” says New York cosmetic dentist Jason Kasarsky, DDS. “Patients who have followed this advice have better gum tissue and better breath.”
Stick to the Basics
“As we are all under more stress and at home with more access to comfort foods, it’s very easy to fall behind on your oral hygiene habits,” notes Dr. Almunajed. However, the basics of smile care haven’t changed, and it’s more important than ever to stick to them. “Maintain your daily habits by brushing well and flossing,” says Dr. Almunajed, adding that your most thorough brush should be right before bed.
Rockville, MD cosmetic dentist Joe Kravitz, DDS instills the significance of the “7-Minute Window” rule to all of his patients, noting that the “number-one reason for failed dental work, teeth, gums and bones” is not understanding its importance. “Eating and drinking are necessary to provide adequate nutrition for survival, and there are acids present in food and drink that are necessary for digestion. However, the presence of acids in your mouth is unhealthy,” he notes. As such, Dr. Kravitz explains that brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and rinsing with water should all be done within seven minutes of eating or drinking for proper oral-health upkeep.
Avoid Staining Foods
Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist Marjan Mirani, DDS says our smile may lose its luster because of gray or yellow stains that may be due to aging or, more usually, the consumption of some common foods. “Food and drinks to be generally mindful of include wine, tea, dark sodas, green juices, blueberries, blackberries, turmeric—basically, any food that can stain a white cotton T-shirt can stain teeth,” adds Dr. Mirani.
“One small tip to help preserve your teeth structure is to always rinse with water,” says Dr. Almunajed, adding that this will raise the pH of the oral environment, which will then remineralize teeth. “Rinsing with water about 30 minutes after eating meals and drinking acidic drinks can counteract any potential acidic environment in the mouth and neutralize the pH to keep the structure of the teeth and enamel intact,” says Dr. Almunajed. Dr. Mirani agrees, noting that rinsing with water after drinking colored drinks will also help to curb any surface stains.
Brush, Then Brush Again
Aside from avoiding the aforementioned foods and drinks, Dr. Mirani recommends brushing immediately after every meal or snack to keep teeth free from stains. “I recommend electric toothbrushes as they are superior to manual toothbrushes in removing plaque and surface stains on teeth,” she adds.
For bonus points, “Use a mixture of baking soda and water to brush your teeth every few days to supplement your typical oral health routine,” recommends Dr. Mirani. “You should see a noticeable change within weeks.”
Rely on Hydrogen Peroxide
Dr. Almunajed recommends all of his patients rinse with hydrogen peroxide as the first step in their oral hygiene regimen (before brushing and flossing), “as it will kill off any potential COVID-19 virus infection,” he explains. “In our dental offices, we have our patients rinse with hydrogen peroxide before any treatment as a protective measure as well.”
If you can’t find hydrogen peroxide, Dr. Almunajed says Colgate Peroxyl Mouthwash ($7) is a great option, and one he also recommends to patients. In addition to fending off any viral infections, routine rinsing with hydrogen peroxide will also whiten teeth, too.
Invest in Quality At-Home Whitening
While there is a variety of smile-whitening options at every drugstore, Dr. Mirani says to look for a whitening kit containing the ingredient carbamide peroxide. “It can remove both deep and surface stains and actually changes your natural tooth color,” she adds. “The kit has trays and a gel, which must be worn daily for a week or more.”
Reach out to Your Dentist
With the majority of dental offices now open, Dr. Almunajed suggests reaching out to your dentist with any questions you might have, especially now as we are coming out of an extended quarantine. “Now is a great time to make an appointment to see your dentist for a checkup—not only to maintain your oral health, but to possibly catch any potential condition early on. Your dentist is there for you, and you should feel comfortable that extra precautions are taken for your safety measures. We are all constantly adapting and staying up to date with the new normal during this pandemic.”
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