Nope No. 1: Brushing Immediately After Eating
If you're a post-breakfast brusher, or you like to keep your mouth fresh throughout the day, give yourself some time in between munching and brushing. "It's better to brush after eating because it removes all of the plaque on your teeth," says Dr. Caitlin Grimes, a dentist at StoneCreek Dental Care in Birmingham, Alabama. "However, it's best to wait about 30 minutes after eating, because your pH levels can change, and if you immediately brush, you cause abrasion on the enamel." This is definitely the rule to follow if you consume highly acidic drinks and foods, such as orange juice or pizza.
Nope No. 2: Your Floss Is Off
If you're not flossing: start. If you are: chances are, you're not thorough enough. "People leave a lot of plaque around the gum line, especially on the back upper and lower teeth—those areas have a higher risk of developing gum disease," Grimes says. You definitely want to do what you can to prevent gum disease, as it not only impacts your mouth but it can link to other bodily issues, such as heart disease and blood circulatory problems. To prevent such damage, devote a chunk of your a.m. and p.m. routines to proper flossing.
"The whole purpose of flossing is to get down into the sulcus: the area between the teeth and your gums," Grimes says. "You want to wrap the tooth so the string takes on a 'C' shape, and gently push it all the way down." Perform a sawing motion—back and forth—on both the front and back sides of the tooth.
Single Pack, $8, cocofloss.com.
Smart Floss Three-Pack, $11, drtungs.com.
Antiplaque Floss by Tom's of Maine, $4, walgreens.com.
Nope No. 3: You're Stressing Out Your Enamel
Enamel is the important outer layer on your teeth that protects them from forces such as food and varying temperatures. The substance should remain resilient to prevent damage, but it can erode over time. "You are susceptible to enamel wear, especially if you have a high intake of acidic foods or experience acid reflux disease," Grimes says. "In that case, try a pro-enamel toothpaste."
Pro-Health Sensitive and Enamel Shield Toothpaste by Crest, $4, walmart.com.
Pronamel Mint Toothpaste by Sensodyne, $6, target.com.
Enamel Health Multi-Protection Toothpaste by Colgate, $3, walgreens.com.
Nope No. 4: You're Afraid of Fluoride
The key to stronger pearly whites may come down to one ingredient: fluoride. There are some naysayers of the chemical, since high doses of fluoride can lead to brittle bones and weakened muscles—but it's safe for minimal daily use to prevent tooth decay. "Fluoride helps re-mineralize and re-crystalize enamel in combination with natural chemicals in your saliva," Grimes says. "It will harden enamel and prevent cavities, erosion, and abrasion." Of course, too much of a good thing can impair results, but, as Dr. Grimes says, "unless you're eating your toothpaste, then I would definitely recommend a fluoride toothpaste." Noted!
Sensitivity Relief Fluoride Toothpaste, $6, hello-products.com.
Daily Repair Toothpaste by Colgate, $4, target.com.
Peroxi-Care Healthy Gums Toothpaste by Arm & Hammer, $5, riteaid.com.
Nope No. 5: You Ignore Your Tongue
This one is easy. "For the majority of the population, it's acceptable to clean your tongue using your toothbrush," Grimes says. For those with a fissured tongue (a deeply grooved surface) or diseases that impact the muscle, you may need a backup tool. "Those diseases could morph the anatomy of your tongue, so for those patients that have these, I recommend a tongue scraper," she says.
Copper Tongue Scraper by The Dirt, $10, urbanoutfitters.com.
Tongue Cleaner, $8, banyanbotanicals.com.
Oolitt Elite Tongue Scraper, $4, shop.oxyfresh.com.
Nope No. 6: You're in a Long-Term Relationship With Your Toothbrush
Just throw it away, already! "I replace mine every three months," Grimes says. "It's technically recommended to keep a brush for four to six months, but six is pushing it, so give it four months." Another time you should pitch the brush? When you're sick. Pro tip: buy a multi-pack of toothbrushes or join a subscription service so you can easily grab a new one when the old brush needs to go.
Classic Kit Subscription, $15 a month, boka.com.
Set of Three Toothbrushes by Marvis, $18, net-a-porter.com.
The Original, $8, madebyradius.com.