Smile-saving tips straight from the pros — no appointment required.
Photography ByANNA PALMA
Written ByBAZE MPINJA
Before this year, who would have ever thought it was possible to look forward to a trip to the dentist’s office? But at this point, smile doctors are officially on our list of beauty experts that we’re longing to see again. Until a heartfelt reunion can happen, there are plenty of easy ways to keep teeth healthy and bright on your own. Step one: commit to the basics. “It’s not sexy, it’s not exciting, but brushing and flossing twice a day are still the most important things everyone should do. There is no substitute,” says LA-based cosmetic dentist Jon Marashi, DDS. Here, top teeth-whisperers explain all the must-do habits for good oral hygiene — and a dazzling Zoom close-up.
PERFECT YOUR TECHNIQUE
It’s tempting to rush through the daily, mundane chore of brushing your teeth, but you’ll get better results if you do it more mindfully. “People will often brush the lower edge of the tooth — the biting area — and skip the gum line area. Make sure that your toothbrush bristles effectively cover the entire surface area of each tooth,” says Dr. Marashi. But being thorough doesn’t mean you have to “scrub the bejesus” out of your teeth, he warns. Use gentle pressure and stick with soft bristles. “Hard brushes can be very damaging. It’s like putting sandpaper over your teeth and gums. You can create mechanical erosion over time.”
CONSIDER A MORE POWERFUL BRUSH
While we’re facing longer stretches in between professional cleanings, it’s a good time to think about upgrading to a sonic toothbrush. “‘Sonic’ refers to the amount of vibrations per minute that are going through the bristles,” says Dr. Marashi. “The vibration blasts the plaque right off the tooth and does a far more effective job than doing it manually.” But choose wisely: A good sonic toothbrush will have north of 30,000 vibrations per minute. And a note to lazy people: A sonic brush also requires less effort. “You just let the head of the toothbrush rest on the tooth and it does the rest for you,” he says. But a fancy brush doesn’t make up for lax habits. No matter what you go with, “consistent use is key,” says Phoenix-based cosmetic dentist Brian Harris, DDS.
REMEMBER, FLOSS IS YOUR FRIEND
“Flossing daily is necessary for healthy gums because it dislodges food that is stuck between the teeth where a brush cannot reach,” says Brian Kantor, DDS, a New York City-based cosmetic dentist. “The biggest mistake people make is that they don’t floss and if they do, they don’t floss correctly,” he says. The pro how-to? “Always run the floss along the tooth structure in the shape of a ‘C’ rather than just snapping quickly between each tooth,” says Dr. Kantor. If you have a water pick, keep in mind that you still need to use good old fashioned string — it’s the only thing that can clean the surface where two teeth are physically touching each other.
Although the pros say there’s no harm in using a whitening toothpaste every day, they recommend doing your best to avoid food and drinks that darken teeth in the first place. “Anything that will stain a white blouse, like blueberries, grape juice or red wine, will stain your teeth,” says Dr. Kantor. But let’s face it, resisting a good Cab-Sauv or a double espresso is a bit more challenging these days. If you feel like your smile could use a bit of brightening, toothpastes with mild abrasives like baking soda, charcoal, or bamboo powder are great for tackling surface stains.
DON’T IGNORE YOUR TONGUE
“Studies show that only 20% of the US population uses a tongue cleaner on a regular basis. More than 1000 types of bacteria live on the tongue and they release sulphur compounds that cause bad breath. The fastest way to improve the smell of your breath is to use a tongue cleanser,” says Dr. Harris. Yes, it’s an extra step, but the process is quick. “Place your tongue cleanser as far back on the tongue as you can and pull forward using gentle pressure. One or two passes is all it takes to remove the white film that contains food particles and bacteria,” says Dr. Harris. If you don’t have a tongue scraping tool handy, use your teeth like Dr. Marashi does. “I stick out my tongue, put it against my top teeth and scrape back and forth,” he says.
KEEP MASK-BREATH IN CHECK
“Wearing a mask more than two hours a day continuously can exacerbate bad breath. Being undercover causes our mouths to become dry, and bacteria — the primary culprit for bad breath — grows best in an environment where saliva is sparse,” says Matt Nejad, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in Beverly Hills. “It doesn't matter what material, all masks have the same effect,” he says. To help prevent odor, rinse your mouth with water before you slip on your mask. For extra help, add a good mouthwash to your routine and take your time when you swish. “Do it for at least 30 seconds. The mechanical action of swishing will disrupt the bacteria and food particles between the teeth, while the ingredients in your rinse will help neutralize sulphur compounds and heal the tissues” says Dr. Harris. “The purpose of a rinse is not to just make your breath smell good, it is to heal and cleanse the mouth.”
Developed by a holistic dentist, this chic toothpaste cleanses, brightens and freshens breath without any iffy ingredients. It’s made with an all-natural formula that includes plaque-fighting activated bamboo charcoal, anti-bacterial aloe vera, and refreshing peppermint oil.