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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

5 Biggest Oral Health Mistakes

Think you take good care of your teeth and mouth? Read this and decide.

You brush a couple of times a day. You floss and see the dentist twice a year. You're a dentist's dream, right? Well, let's not jump to conclusions. “Some patients think they're doing everything right, but it turns out that there's a big flaw in their routine,” says Charles Wakefield, dentist and director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program at Baylor College of Dentistry in Houston. See where you might be slipping up.

1. You brush before breakfast.
You grab the toothbrush first thing in the a.m. to get the icky taste out of our mouth. But if you brush before enjoying your coffee and bagel, you’re allowing residue from your food and drink to linger on your teeth for hours, causing plaque buildup and stains. “It’s smarter to rinse out your mouth when you get out of bed, and then brush and floss after you’re finished with breakfast,” says Wakefield.

2. You chew on ice.

It seems as innocent as drinking water, but it can actually create microscopic fractures in tooth enamel -- and could even cause your teeth to break. An alternative for die-hard ice fans: Make ice pops out of water -- and lick them.

3. You’ve had the same toothbrush since last year.

After about three months, toothbrush bristles start to wear out and aren’t as effective at cleaning your teeth. So spring for a new one. Check your kid’s toothbrush too; its bristles get bent out of shape even faster.

4. You nibble all afternoon.

Even if you’re choosing healthy foods like fruit and nuts, constant snacking is bad for your teeth because they’re continually being exposed to plaque-causing bacteria. Instead, enjoy one afternoon snack and rinse out your mouth.

5. You ignore a slow-to-heal mouth sore.

Canker sores are very common -- and harmless -- but if you have a lesion in your mouth that’s been bothering you for more than two weeks, give your dentist a ring. It may just be a stubborn sore, but it could also be oral cancer, cautions Wakefield.

About the Author
Karen Cicero is Completely You’s Need to Know blogger. A health journalist and magazine editor with more than 15 years of experience, she has contributed to such publications as Prevention, SELF and Health, and she has edited the dental column for Heart & Soul magazine.

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