Family Health Checklist for Dental Hygiene

Tips on getting braces, saving money on expenses, bad breath fixes, and more.

dental hygiene

Photo by Kate Sears

Photo by Kate Sears

Our recommended toothbrush is from The Humble Co.

Orthodontist visit for your teen?
If your teen has protruding or crowded teeth, difficulty chewing or biting, or jaws that shift or make noise, schedule a visit with an orthodontist.

Braces aren’t just for kids anymore
Adults seeking treatment from members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) rose by 93% in the past three decades. “Among other things, the advertising for clear aligner treatments has certainly opened the eyes of many adults to the possibility of orthodontics,” says Brent E. Larson, DDS, MS, president of the AAO and director of the division of orthodontics at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.

Useful Subscription Services

  • Customize a toothpaste order: Say your teeth are sensitive, your husband wants to forgo fluoride and your kids like raspberry flavor: Hello is a one-stop shop. hello-products.com, from $4
  • Get flossing: Flosstime’s automated floss dispenser doles out floss, then lights up when it’s time to floss again. Your first box costs $31 (with batteries and a refill); quarterly refills are $5. smilepronto.com
  • Go electric: Sets of four Quip electric toothbrushes and anticavity toothpastes start at $125. For $40 every three months, get four replacement heads and travel-size toothpastes. getquip.com

Toothpaste lingo

  • Anticavity: Strengthens enamel with fluoride. Try: Tom’s of Maine Cavity Protection Peppermint Baking Soda, $6/5.5 oz
  • Whitening: Removes stains using mild abrasives or peroxide. Try: Colgate Optic White Platinum Stain-Less White, $6/3 oz
  • Antimicrobial: Fights gingivitis with stannous fluoride or prevents tartar with zinc citrate or pyrophosphates. Try: Crest Gum Detoxify Deep Clean, $7/4.1 oz
  • Desensitizing: Relieves pain, often using potassium salts or stannous fluoride. Try: Sensodyne Rapid Relief, $6/3.4 oz
Quip Toothbrush

Photo courtesy of Get Quip

Photo courtesy of Get Quip

An oral care routine for teens and adults

  • Brush teeth for two minutes twice a day.
  • Use an interdental cleaner (like floss) daily.
  • See your dentist regularly, according to their recommendations.
  • Expect X-rays every 6 to 36 months, depending on age and risk for cavities.
  • Extra credit: Rinse with a therapeutic mouthwash (containing cetylpyridinium chloride for bad breath, peroxide for whitening or fluoride to prevent decay) according to label instructions.

Save on dental expenses

  • Make sure your doctor is in your insurance network before you have work done.
  • Prior to treatment, ask your insurer to provide a coverage estimate.
  • Use tax-advantaged funds (like an HSA, HRA or FSA).
  • Inquire about available payment plans.
  • Ask if your doctor can split up expensive treatments so one is in December and another is in January to take advantage of the annual limits of two calendar years.
  • Search for a dental or dental hygiene school that offers discounted services.

Banish bad breath

  • Clean the back of your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper.
  • Eat carrots, apples and other mildly abrasive healthy foods that require a lot of chewing, which gets saliva flowing to flush out debris. Chewing sugar-free gum can also help.
  • See your dentist to identify problems like gum disease or dry mouth.

Take note
H2O (even sparkling) is the best beverage for your teeth.