Dental office closures mean your family’s oral care routine is more important than ever.

To keep staff and patients as safe and healthy as possible, the American Dental Association has advised dental offices across the country to limit appointments to emergency care only. Since your family’s routine dental appointments will be postponed, it’s more important than ever to keep up a thorough, at-home oral care regimen.

Here are 10 tips for keeping your family members’ smiles healthy and bright until your dental office resumes appointments.

1. Limit sugar and starch intake by focusing on healthy meals and snacks.

A nutritious, varied diet is the best “medicine” for a strong immune system, a healthy body, and a beautiful smile. Restricting sugar and starch consumption helps reduce inflammation in the body, strengthen the immune system, and protect teeth against tooth decay.

Eating plenty of healthy, wholesome foods also helps our oral health by reducing our risk of everything from periodontal disease to ulcers and even oral cancer.

2. Make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water instead of soda or juice.

Staying hydrated is just as important for your health as it is for your teeth. Encourage your family to drink as much water as possible and limit soda, juice, and other beverages as special treats. Sugar and acids in soda are detrimental to tooth enamel, and juice can sometimes be just as bad or even worse.

Sparkling water is a nice alternative to regular water, especially when you’re craving something bubbly, but be sure to check the labels, as many brands sneak in sugar and citric acid.

3. Be mindful of any habits that could cause an accident, such as chewing on ice, eating sticky foods, or whitening teeth.

You and your family will want to do everything possible to stay healthy until your dentist is back to their normal hours. Part of that includes preventing potentially damaging or pain-triggering accidents.

Avoid chewing on ice or using your teeth as tools (i.e. opening a bottle). Steering clear of very sticky, chewy foods can stop a filling from coming loose. It’s also a good idea to postpone your at-home tooth whitening just in case you experience sensitivity.

4. Check your family’s multivitamin supplements for adequate levels of both calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium and vitamin D play a big role in keeping teeth strong and healthy. Many people are taking a multivitamin right now to help boost their immune system, but be sure to check the labels on what your family is taking. It’s not uncommon for either calcium or vitamin D to either not be present or be present in a very low amount.

Calcium is often pushed as the most important mineral, but vitamin D is just as critical as it’s necessary for proper calcium absorption.

5. Replace your family’s toothbrushes and tongue scrapers if it’s been a few months or if they’ve been sick.

Toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months or as soon as the bristles begin to show signs of wear or fraying. It’s also important to replace toothbrushes for family members who have been sick, as the bristles can harbor bacteria.

Tongue scrapers are a very useful tool for preventing bad breath by getting rid of bacteria on the tongue. These tools should also be replaced as often as toothbrushes.

You can find ADA-recommended toothbrushes here.

6. Brushing and flossing twice a day is standard, but if a cavity is present, be sure to brush and floss after every meal or snack.

If you have a cavity or a similar issue that isn’t causing pain, your dentist will more than likely consider it a non-urgent matter. Since you’ll need to wait to get your cavity filled, it’s important to take careful care of your teeth to prevent further damage from occurring.

One of the best ways to do this is to brush and floss right away after eating any meal or snack. If you drink something other than water, such as a glass of juice, you should brush afterward as well. This helps keep the tooth as clean as possible, clean off bacteria, and slow decay.

7. Check in with your kids to make sure they’re brushing and flossing properly, especially before bed.

Brushing before bed is crucial, as most bacteria growth will occur while sleeping, but it can be tempting for kids to either not brush properly or skip it if they’re tired. Check in with your kids before bed to make sure they’re brushing thoroughly.

To make it fun, the whole family can brush together. Have everyone gather in one bathroom and take turns playing a two-minute snippet of each person’s favorite song.

8. A stick of sugar-free bubble gum is a tasty and tooth-friendly treat, especially when chewed after eating.

Certain brands of sugar-free gum have xylitol as the sweetener. Xylitol has been shown to help protect against tooth-decaying bacteria. Chewing a stick of gum after a meal, snack, or non-water beverage will clean the surface of the teeth, help un-stick bacteria, and stimulate saliva in the mouth. These three things are all advantageous for your oral health.

You can find ADA-approved sugar-free gum brands here. Kids will really love sugar-free Bazooka Bubble Gum as a treat after a meal.

9. Adding an ADA-recommended mouthwash to your family’s oral care routine will help keep decay and gum inflammation at bay.

Mouthwash isn’t technically a necessity, but dentists do recommend it as a part of a complete dental care routine. Swishing with an ADA-approved mouthwash for 30 seconds after brushing helps to stop decay, reduce plaque, and freshen your breath.

You can find total care mouthwashes for adults and children. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with gum inflammation or is susceptible to plaque buildup, you can find mouthwashes specifically designed to address these concerns.

10. Take the time to relax and relieve stress, especially if anyone has been diagnosed with bruxism, TMJ, or gum disease.

Stress negatively impacts all facets of our emotional and physical health, including our oral health. Chronic stress lowers the immune system, heightens inflammation in the body, and can lead to teeth grinding, jaw clenching, and canker sores from biting the cheeks. If a family member already has bruxism (chronic grinding), TMJ, or gum disease, it’s even more important to get stress under control.

Find what helps you and your family relax and do those activities as often as possible. Stress is at an all-time high right now, so it’s important to fight against it whenever you can.

Millennium Dental is on a temporary break, but we are still available to treat dental emergencies.

If you’re not sure if you or a family member is experiencing an emergency or not, this guide from the ADA is a handy reference. We encourage our patients to give us a call if they have any questions or are experiencing serious symptoms. It’s always better to play it safe when it comes to your dental health.

For dental emergencies, please call our office to speak with a staff member. From there, we can access the situation and determine the right plan of action for treatment.