A healthy smile is a beautiful smile. Taking good care of your oral health is not difficult, but it requires knowledge and commitment. And the payoff is well worth it: a smile that stays decay- and disease-free, requires minimal restorative work, remains white and vibrant, and that reflects your dynamic personality.

Here are five essential habits for keeping your teeth and gums in great shape — including regular visits to the dentist. For preventive dentistry in Murrells Inlet and Georgetown, SC, call The Smile Center at 843-492-5026 for (Georgetown) or 843-491-5353 for (Murrells Inlet).

#1: Be Consistent with Oral Hygiene

We know how it is. You are rushed in the mornings trying to get yourself and maybe your kids out the door. At night, you are exhausted and just want to collapse into bed. The last thing you want to do is spend even a few minutes tending to your dental hygiene. But having a twice-daily routine in place — and sticking to it — is one of the most important things you can do to prevent cavities, gum disease , and other problems. If you have children, you are setting an example that they will follow for life.

You should brush at least twice a day for two minutes at a time. Be sure to reach all surfaces of the teeth, but be gentle (don’t scrub hard). Use fluoride toothpaste and be sure to replace your toothbrush when the bristles fray or every couple months. And don’t forget to floss at least once every day!

#2: Visit Us Every Six Months

Even if you’ve got the home care down, it’s important to visit The Smile Center for checkups every six months. The best brushing and flossing will not get rid of all of the plaque and tartar that’s built up on your teeth and under the gumline. Our professional hygienists have the expertise and special tools to make your mouth truly clean.

You will also receive a comprehensive exam. Not all dental problems exhibit symptoms, especially in the early stages. Dr. Miller will be able to detect signs of gum disease and tooth decay, which enables us to get a head start on treatment.

#3: Eat a Tooth-Friendly Diet

You’ve probably heard of calcium. It’s a mineral that is stored in the teeth and gives our chompers much of their strength and structure. It and other minerals are shed from the enamel on a continuous basis and must be replenished. So load up on calcium-rich dairy products and leafy greens. Greens also contain folic acid, which is beneficial for gum health.

Foods that should be avoided, or at least kept to a minimum, include anything that’s sweet with a chewy texture: gummies, chewy granola bars, and dried fruit. If you’re craving a snack, skip the pretzels and chips — carbs feed bacteria and cause them to proliferate. Better choices include apples, nuts, and raw veggies.

#4: Drink Lots of Water

Sugary beverages like soft drinks, juices, and sports drinks are heavily damaging to your teeth, especially if you’re a habitual imbiber. Even diet soft drinks contain high levels of enamel-destroying acids.

Get into the habit of drinking water instead. Water is an excellent way to keep your teeth clean between meals and throughout the day. It rinses away food particles and bacteria and dilutes the harmful acids that will wear away your tooth enamel. If you don’t have one already, purchase a reusable bottle, fill it with tap water every morning, and carry it with you as you go about your day.

#5: Use Your Teeth as Teeth

Maybe you have a bad habit like chewing your fingernails or eating ice. Or maybe you’re the type that, rather than walking to another room to grab a pair of scissors, would rather just tear off a clothing tag with your teeth.

Here’s the problem: your teeth are strong, they’re durable, and they can take some wear and tear. But they are meant for chewing food, period. If you use them on non-food objects or use them as tools, you risk breaking, cracking, or otherwise damaging them. And take it from us: a dental emergency is not something you want to bring on.

There’s also the bacteria factor. If you chew on a random object or your nails, you may end up spreading your oral microbes. Or you may introduce bacteria from the outside world to your mouth.

Follow these habits, and you have a good chance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums for the rest of your life. Call The Smile Center for all of your preventive dentistry needs. We have two SC offices for your convenience: 843-492-5026 for (Georgetown) or 843-491-5353 for (Murrells Inlet). You may also submit questions and appointment requests online.