Just because the tooth fairy hasn't dropped by in a while doesn't mean you can ignore your dental health. Cavities aren't just for kids. You can get them at any age, so healthy gums and teeth should remain a priority.1

But you're busy. You've got a lot on your plate. If you miss a flossing or two, it's no big deal. Right?

While you may be tempted to skimp on the good dental habits you learned as a kid, you should know how ignoring the little, but important things may cause problems down the road. Let's go over the simple things you can do to help keep your mouth healthy.

Healthy dental habits

Grab healthy snacks over junk food2

A healthy diet helps you avoid cavities and gum disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheese, nuts and whole grains are good for your body and your mouth. Limit the amount of sugary and high carbohydrate food and drinks you consume because they may help produce bacteria that leads to bad breath and cavities.

If you need something sweet, try sugar-free gum. It helps increase saliva, your body's natural defense against mouth bacteria.

Drink water3

Water straight from the faucet has fluoride, which may help keep your teeth strong. The fewer sports drinks, flavored waters, juices, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages and carbonated beverages you have, the better. Substitute water any time you can.

If you smoke or use tobacco, quit4

You may already know what smoking does to your lungs, but did you know that it also messes with your teeth and gums? Tobacco may stain your teeth and smokers often develop dry mouth, which may lead to bad breath and may cause cavities and gum disease—or worse: cancer.

Brush twice a day, for a full 2 to 3 minutes5

You may already know how to brush teeth correctly, but you may have developed the bad habit of doing a quick once over with the toothbrush. Take the time to do a good brushing. Using a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub your teeth for a full 2 to 3 minutes. Find a song you like, pop in your ear buds, and don't quit brushing till the music stops. And remember to get a new toothbrush at least 3 or 4 times a year.

Floss every day6

Let's face it, flossing is a bore. But if it can keep your breath fresh and mouth cavity-free, it's worth it. Good flossing technique: Pull the floss up and down the sides of your teeth to help scrape off the dental plaque that causes cavities. If you haven't flossed in a while, your gums may bleed or be a little sore, but keep at it. Soon it will be a breeze. Learn more about flossing your teeth.

Keep your dental appointments7

Visiting your dentist every 6 months as recommended prevents problems from getting worse. Plus, nothing feels quite as good as a mouthful of teeth that have just been professionally cleaned.

Good preventive dental care should be a lifetime habit. It may take a little more time and concentration than you want to spend right now, but it may pay off in the long run.

Just follow the simple dental care steps you learned when you were younger, and dump any bad habits you may have now, before they become permanent.

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  1. “11 Ways to Keep Tour Teeth Healthy,” Healthline, last accessed December 6, 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/best-practices-for-healthy-teeth#3.
  2. “Diet and Dental Health,” American Dental Association, last accessed December 6, 2022, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/all-topics-a-z/diet-and-dental-health.
  3. “Infographic: Water with Fluoride Builds a Foundation for Healthy Teeth,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed December 6, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/resources/foundation-healthy-teeth.html.
  4. “Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed December 6, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html.
  5. “11 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy.”
  6. “11 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy.”
  7. “11 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy.”