In October, sweets and treats seem to rain from the sky, whether they’re packaged for Halloween or an ode to fall baking (we’re looking at you, pumpkin-spice everything).

It’s no coincidence that October is also National Dental Hygiene Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health habits, and to pay tribute to the dental hygienists who dedicate their workdays to your keeping your pearly whites (and mouth and gums) healthy.

Did you know that when you brush and floss routinely, you’re not just benefitting your oral health, you’re also impacting your overall health? According to the Cleveland Clinic, oral conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis may contribute to other health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, pneumonia and endocarditis; they could also raise the risk for certain pregnancy complications.

This month, give your mouth a little extra TLC by taking the time to assess your oral health habits. Here are some things to consider.

Are you following these steps for proper brushing?  

We weren’t born knowing the right way to brush our teeth. It’s something we all have to learn! Here’s a checklist of tips from the American Dental Association (ADA) to make sure you’re doing it right:

  • Use a soft-bristled brush.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
  • Brush the outer and inner surfaces of the teeth, as well as any areas food touches, using short, gentle strokes. Aim for at least two minutes of brushing per session.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months; or more frequently if the bristles appear damaged.
  • Brush twice a day.

Are you following these steps for proper flossing?

While brushing helps remove food and bacteria from the teeth, some food particles can get stuck between the teeth, along with a sticky film called plaque, which can build up and cause damage. That’s why it’s important to floss between your teeth once a day. Here are the ADA’s tips for flawless flossing:

  • Break off about 18 inches of dental floss and hold it between your thumb and forefingers.
  • Gently guide the floss between your teeth.
  • When it reaches the gum line, curve it against the tooth in a C-shape, gently pressing it between the tooth and gum.
  • Then, rub the floss gently up and down between teeth.
  • Repeat this for all of your teeth, including those back molars.

Did you know that you can boost your dental hygiene through these everyday habits?

While brushing and flossing are important, your dental commitments shouldn’t stop there! Try and incorporate the following habits into to further protect your oral health.

  • Drink fluoridated water.
  • Avoid using tobacco products.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • If you are taking medications that cause your mouth to be dry, let your doctor know.
  • If you find your mouth is frequently dry, drinking lots of water and chewing sugarless gum could help.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Limit how much sugar and soda you consume.
  • Visit the dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.
  • Talk to your dentist or doctor about any health concerns you might have regarding your oral health.   

When you invest time and energy caring for your mouth and teeth, you can reap the rewards of fresh breath and a confident smile. Make good oral health a habit, and be sure and thank a dental hygienist this month for their dedication to your smile.