I went to the dentist a few days ago and had the best educational experience. My dentist hygienist was A1. For those of you in the NYC area, I go to Manhattan Dental on 45th and 5th. She was giving me some dental hygiene tips that I’ve never heard before. After I left the dentist, I shared some of the tips with my coworkers and they didn’t know many of the tips either. That’s when I knew this would be a wonderful blog topic. Many people neglect their dental health and most aren’t aware that habits they’ve been doing for  a very long time actually aren’t good.

Your mouth is the gateway to a number of potential issues in your body. An infection that starts in your gums can travel elsewhere throughout your body. One of the most serious health complications it can cause is heart disease. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the USA. Let’s be more conscious about our dental health.

Here are 7 tips for healthier teeth:

1. Visit the dentist twice a year 

You should be going to the dentist biannually to avoid major issues in the future. If you can’t remember when you last went to the dentist, schedule an appointment now. If you’re excuse is that you’re scared of the dentist, let it go. You should be more scared of poor health than whatever the dentist will do. Many dental issues are preventable if you’re getting your regular check ups and cleanings.

2. Floss before you brush

I recently discovered that you should floss before you brush. I used to floss when I wanted too. Usually it was if I had something in my teeth but now I’ve realized you should floss everyday. There are particles in your teeth that you just aren’t able to get out with only a toothbrush. Keep in mind when you’re flossing to rub the floss against your teeth in a motion that creates a forward or backward ‘C’ shape, wrapping the floss around each and every tooth. In order to stop being lazy and remember to floss, I placed my floss next to my toothbrush. Now when I go to brush my teeth the floss container triggers me to floss first then brush.

3. Use a ADA approved mouthwash

Many common mouthwashes have fluoride in them. Mouthwash with fluoride conflicts with the fluoride in your tooth paste. That’s why you should only rinse with ADA approved mouthwash. Next time you’re shopping for mouth wash look for the ADA approved label on it. Mouthwash can go where toothbrushes and floss can’t in order to get rid of harmful bacteria on your gumline that can cause gingivitis. My dental hygienist recommends using mouthwash after you’ve brushed your teeth before you go to bed.

4. Spit don’t rinse

I know many of you like myself was told to rinse with water after you’re done brushing. According to Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, rinsing our mouth with water is very bad for our teeth as it washes away the protective fluoride left behind by brushing. Since fluoride is the most important ingredient in toothpaste to prevent tooth decay, when we rinse with water, we’re washing away the ingredient that strengthens our tooth enamel. I no longer rinse my mouth with water. In the morning, I only rinse my tongue with water and at night I swirl around my ADA approved mouthwash.

5. Wash all surfaces of your teeth and gums

My dentist could tell I drink tea or coffee purely from  the stains these drinks leave on our teeth. I’ve heard people say that drinking your coffee or tea from a straw can help with staining. Regardless, it’s important for all of use to wash all surfaces of our teeth especially the back of our teeth, our gums and tongue. Don’t neglect brushing those areas. Also, don’t leave the water on when you’re brushing, lets conserve our water.

6. Change Your Brush

If your bristles are soft and worn or if you think you’ve been using the same brush for more than 4 months. It’s time to use a new toothbrush. Bristles deteriorate with time and usage, so you won’t be able to achieve optimal cleanliness with an old dingy brush. Get a new brush every three to four months–or at your biannual dental checkup.

7. Limit your caffeine, alcohol and sugary drink intake

We all enjoy these drinks and that’s okay. However being more mindful of how much you consume doesn’t hurt. Drink more water. Sugar converts into acid in the mouth, which can then erode the enamel of your teeth. These acids are what lead to cavities. Drink more water, you’re body will thank you for it.