Happy Teeth, Healthy Heart

It’s the holiday season! And for many, that means indulging in all of life’s delicious treats. Enjoying a festive sugary snack alongside family and friends every now and then is no crime—unless you lose track of your hygiene routine.

Forgetting to brush is an easy way to slip into dangerous territory, not only for your mouth, but for your entire body. The cleanliness of your mouth has a direct connection to the healthiness of the rest of your body, including essential organs like the heart.

We know this to be true from a study that surveyed 161,000 South Koreans between the ages of 40 and 79, with no history of heart failure or atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. When participants began the study, they were asked about their lifestyle habits as part of a medical exam, including how often they brushed their teeth.

During a median follow up of nearly 11 years, researchers gathered that those who brushed their teeth at least three times a day had a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, and a 12% lower risk of heart failure.

The study (published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology) noted that age, sex, wealth, exercise, alcohol consumption, body fat, and blood pressure were completely independent of the identified reduced risk.

It’s also been observed that failing to brush and floss regularly causes bacteria to build up in the mouth, which can lead to the bloodstream, and can eventually cause other conditions like heart disease.

While it’s too early in the research to declare that brushing your teeth regularly—especially during the holiday season—will prevent atrial fibrillation and heart failure, it certainly does not hurt. So when you’re decking the halls and sipping hot chocolate this month, don’t forget to brush, floss, and make your first hygiene appointment of 2020.

A Feast for Your Teeth

Tis the season for giving thanks! When it’s time to go around the table and share what you’re thankful for this year, don’t forget your beautiful smile. We’ve rounded up a big bowl of tips to keep in mind to maintain a healthy mouth and sparkling teeth this Thanksgiving—from the main event, to leftover meals, and every month that follows.

Reach for the veggies. In a spread full of indulgent holiday delicacies, vegetables might not be your first pick, but they should be. Colorful veggies are loaded with vitamins and minerals that keep your teeth strong. The leafy greens in salads and other dishes will provide a hefty serving of teeth-strengthening calcium. If you spot red and orange veggies, add some to your plate for a few bites of gum-protecting vitamin C.

Control your colors. Bright foods and drinks—like the red and orange veggies above—are a beautiful addition to the table, but certain recipes may feature stain-causing ingredients. To keep your enamel pearly white, try to stay away from red wine, cranberry sauce, and post-meal coffee. If you just can’t resist the blueberry or cherry pie on the dessert table, go ahead and indulge, but come see us for a cleaning soon after the holiday.

Beware of acid. Cranberries are an essential element in lots of Thanksgiving dishes, and many adults enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner—but be sure to wash them down with water. Cranberries and wine are high in enamel-softening acid that can make your teeth more vulnerable to decay and staining. Lessen the acid’s corrosiveness with bites of other foods and frequent sips of water.

See you later, starch! While sweets are typically the most popular culprit when it comes to harming your teeth, starchy dishes can also play a part. The starches in must-have savory side dishes like cornbread and stuffing can interact with bacteria in the same way that sugary foods do. These bacteria produce acid that can make itself at home in your mouth and cause enamel irritation. Have cornbread and stuffing alongside servings of protein and fiber for balance and to create saliva that will wash bacteria away.

The less-sweet side of sugar. Many Thanksgiving feasts are a decadent mix of sweet and savory from start to finish. Yams are topped with melty marshmallows, and the dessert options can be endless. The holidays are a great excuse to indulge your sweet tooth, but do so wisely. Cavity-causing bacteria is lurking in many of our favorite dishes, so be sure to wash down sweet bites with water. If you’re the chef, try using less-damaging sugar substitutes like xylitol or erythritol to keep the dishes sweet and guests happy.

The most important part of the holiday season is to enjoy time with those you love, and adding delicious treats just makes it sweeter. For a healthy smile long after the holiday season, make sure to keep up with your regular dental hygiene routine.



Tip-or-Treat! Ideas for a Healthy Halloween

Halloween is almost here! Which also means a lot of sugary candy is about to make its way into your house. Too much of anything—especially Halloween candy—can be bad for your teeth and your overall health.

We’ve compiled some tips you can keep in mind to keep your family as healthy as possible this Halloween and all year long:


  1. Give candy dessert duty
    As you eat your meals, saliva production increases to help wash away the bacteria and particles that may get left behind. If you limit Halloween candy consumption to the time right after a meal, the saliva will do its job and eliminate excess sugar from your mouth.


  1. Sticky is tricky
    Sticky candies do just that—stick. Even if you have sticky candies like gummies or taffy right after a meal, your saliva may not be powerful enough to wash it away. As the sticky candy clings to your teeth, it increases your risk of decay.


  1. Embrace the bubble
    Sugarless gum is a great way to extend your post-meal increased saliva production. The act of chewing and the saliva that follows will help wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria. It’ll also keep your mind off of having another piece of candy.


  1. Candy is not a snack
    Halloween candy comes in small sizes, that just because it’s “snack sized” doesn’t mean you should snack on it all day long. Candy bowls are easy to reach into, but a constant supply of sugar to the mouth isn’t good for your teeth or your body, and you’ll increase your chances of cavities.


  1. The quicker the better
    The longer candy stays in your mouth, the more opportunity the sugar has to make its way into all of your nooks and crannies. By choosing treats that are chewable—not hard—you’ll be shortening the amount of time the sugar has to make itself at home.


  1. Don’t force it
    Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. While it may be hard to part ways with hard-earned candy after a long night of trick-or-treating, we recommend only keeping your favorites. Not only does that limit your intake, but it’s also a chance to donate less-loved treats to a charitable organization.


  1. Say no to soda
    The only thing more harmful to teeth than eating sugar is drinking it. Popular drinks like soda, sports drinks, flavored waters, and energy drinks are loaded with sugar that coats your teeth. These drinks can have just as much—or more—sugar in them than a candy bar, so reach for water instead.


  1. Water is wonderful
    Ditch the soda for water. Not only will big gulps of water help wash away Halloween sugar, but it’s also preventative. Fluoridated water is a great weapon for fighting tooth decay by adding a protective layer to your teeth. If fluoride doesn’t exist naturally in your water, you can purchase bottled water that contains fluoride as an ingredient.


  1. Back to brushing basics
    No matter what time of year it is or how much candy is in your house, the golden rule of dental hygiene remains the same: brush twice a day for two minutes, and floss once a day. We recommend replacing your toothbrush every three months and using soft bristles to keep your gums from getting irritated.


If it’s been a while since your last cleaning, kick off these tips with a trip to Dr. Sraon. Seeing you will be a treat!

Myths of the Mouth

With so much information right at our fingertips, it can be hard to know what to believe. The wealth of information we’re exposed to—especially online—has caused us to be cautious and remind ourselves that “just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Have you ever experienced a mysterious symptom and looked to the internet to find out what it might be? If so, you are not alone. Looking for medical answers online can seem effective, but more often than not you will find yourself scrolling through information that may not be factual. The same goes for dental diagnoses and oral health.

When we have questions about our body, friends and family seem like trusted sources to consult. But with so many dental myths swirling around about how to best care for your smile, it’s better to go straight to your dentist. To help you understand what to believe and what to be cautious about, we’ve outlined some of the most common dental myths to look out for:


Myth #1: A white smile is a healthy smile

Let’s make that, a white smile looks like a healthy smile—but it won’t mask anything going on beneath the surface. While whitening your teeth to achieve a bright sparkling smile looks great, it doesn’t improve the health of the teeth themselves. Disease typically begins in the gums and down in the crevices of the teeth, unaffected by their shade. If germs and bacteria make their way into your gum line or the nooks and crannies of your enamel, boosting their whiteness will not have a healing affect. If your oral health needs a makeover, we’ll work with you to get them in tip-top shape, ready for whitening.


Myth #2: Stop brushing right away if your gums start to bleed

Let’s make that, keep brushing! If your gums bleed, it often means you’re not flossing enough, causing your gums to miss out on essential blood circulation. Bleeding gums could also be a sign of gum disease, which should be addressed right away. If you know that you need to up your flossing game, make a point to do so every night to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. If you think the problem may be more serious, schedule an appointment right away so we can address the cause of bleeding.


Myth #3: Sugar is the biggest cause of cavities

Let’s make that, sugar may contribute to cavities, but it’s not the biggest offender. Cavities are caused mostly by not brushing your teeth after meals. The bacteria that naturally occurs in your mouth feeds on food particles that are left over from meals and snacks. As the bacteria eats, it dispenses acidic waste in your mouth, which forms plaque. That plaque buildup is what eventually leads to decay and disease. Neglecting to brush your teeth leaves a feast for harmful bacteria to enjoy, so brushing your teeth regularly after eating will help protect your teeth and gums.


Myth #4: You don’t need to floss if you brush well enough

Let’s make that, flossing is the perfect complement to brushing. No matter how religiously you brush your teeth, the bristles just won’t be able to clear out the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies on and between each tooth. Bacteria and infections thrive in hard-to-reach spots in your mouth, and allowing food particles to fester between your teeth can lead to infections, gum disease, gum recession, and bad breath. Lots of people find flossing tricky, so we’d be happy to provide some tips and techniques to make it a breeze.


Myth #5: Brushing better fixes bad breath

Let’s make that, brushing better can help with bad breath, but the cause may be deeper. If you follow a strict hygiene regimen every day but still have bad breath, you may be dealing with an infection or a collection of bacteria that should be addressed by a dentist. If you follow a strict regimen but the dentist doesn’t see signs of infection, the bad breath could be caused by changes in your body somewhere other than your mouth, such as the result of a new medicine.


Myth #6: Dental implants may not be around for long

Let’s make that, dental implants have been around a long time! The technology that makes dental implants effective continues to evolve, but their basic function has been consistent for over 50 years. Implants are designed to fill gaps in your smile, improve the condition of your jawbone, and keep your bite pressure healthy so you can talk, eat, smile, and breathe comfortably. If you are hoping to fill a gap in your teeth, or you would like to leave dentures behind, ask us about the possibilities of dental implants.


We love when patients ask questions. When patients come directly to us, we can rest assured that they are getting accurate information and taking actions that are best for their oral and overall health. Call us today or make an appointment to answer any questions you may have!


Baby on Board? Don’t Forget to Brush!

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re expecting a little one. Understanding the ins and outs of prenatal care is crucial every step of the way, and your doctor will check in to make sure you’re on track. One aspect of your overall health that gets less attention during pregnancy but deserves just as much is the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums. Just like the rest of your body, paying close attention to your oral health while you’re pregnant is critical in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and eventually a healthy baby. Being pregnant causes women to be more susceptible to oral health problems because changes to the body can end up affecting the teeth and gums.

One of those changes is increased hormone levels, like progesterone and estrogen, which can elevate your chances of experiencing oral health problems you haven’t worried about previously. Your eating habits may also change during pregnancy, and introducing new foods to your mouth may cause it to react in a negative way. With all of these changes at work, there’s a good chance you’ll get tired and not brush and floss as religiously as you once did. There’s also a chance that brushing or flossing makes you feel nauseous. Whatever the reason, brushing less frequently increases the chances that you’ll experience potentially harmful buildup. This buildup can lead to a number of dental problems, including cavities, gingivitis, loose teeth, periodontal disease, pregnancy tumors, and tooth erosion.

Cavities, a form of tooth decay, are small, damaged areas on the surface of the tooth, and being pregnant makes you more likely to have them. Cavities form when bacteria develop on the tooth, and if not properly treated, that bacteria can be passed to the baby. The surface of the tooth can also be impacted by vomiting that often accompanies morning sickness. The acidity can cause erosion to the enamel and leave your teeth unprotected from further damage.

Gingivitis, on the other hand, is inflammation of the gums that can be brought on by pregnancy hormones. If not cared for, gingivitis can be a precursor to gum disease which has been linked to premature birth. In the same way that hormones may cause gingivitis, they also may temporarily loosen the tissues and bones in your gum that keep your teeth in place, creating spaces for bacteria to settle in. If too much bacteria makes itself at home in your mouth, plaque can form, and eventually cause pregnancy tumors. These tumors are red, raw, and appear like lumps on the gum.

While the risk of oral health problems is higher during pregnancy, you may not experience any at all. If you notice signs including bad breath, loose teeth, new spaces between your teeth, swollen gums, mouth sores, tooth pain, or receding gums, call your dentist right away.

Taking good care of your mouth, teeth, and gums during pregnancy can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. When it comes to dental health and pregnancy, the best place to start is with the basics: make sure to go to your regular dental checkups during pregnancy, and that you brush twice a day, as always.

Spit Happens!

When it comes to bodily fluids, saliva is an unsung hero. We typically think of spit as something gross and germy, but the saliva that’s in our mouths is helpful for way more than just the action of spitting. Our saliva is an essential tool that allows us to chew, swallow, and digest comfortably. It also fights off infection, washes away potentially damaging food particles, and helps us taste wonderful flavors we enjoy every day.

You might be wondering what’s in our spit that makes it such a powerful tool. While saliva has a reputation of being less-than-hygienic, it’s actually about 99 percent water. The remaining 1 percent consists of electrolytes, digestive enzymes, small quantities of uric acid, cholesterol, mucus-forming proteins, and other organic substances. Much like your heartbeat, the production of saliva is controlled unconsciously by the autonomic nervous system, and healthy adults accumulate between two and six cups of spit a day.

Perhaps most importantly for overall health, spit is full of infection-battling white blood cells. In fact, recent studies show that neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) are most effective at killing bacteria if they come from saliva than anywhere else in the body. Just like the saying “lick your wounds” suggests, adding saliva to a wound provides additional bacteria-fighting power.

Similar to how it fights bacteria, saliva also helps your body fight off cavities. Spit contains tooth-strengthening calcium and fluoride, has the power to wash away particles of food that could get trapped, and can neutralize plaque acids, which reduce tooth decay and the possibility of cavities. If you want to maximize your spit production, chewing gum will increase the flow of saliva to further protect your oral health and keep your mouth sparkling clean.

Speaking of chewing, saliva is responsible for transporting dissolving food to your taste receptors. Without saliva, those receptors may dry out and affect the mouth’s ability to taste, or lead to longer term problems like dry mouth, or xerostomia. It’s possible that you may have experienced a dry mouth sensation in times of stress. During these times, the body’s main concern becomes eliminating that stress—not with eating—so the digestive system (including saliva production) slows down.

In its normal function however, salivation has five distinct phases, mostly triggered by food passing through the body:

  1. Cephalic: When you see or smell something delicious
  2. Buccal: The body’s reflexive response to the presence of food in the mouth
  3. Esophageal: The stimulation of the salivary glands as food moves through the esophagus
  4. Gastric: When something irritates your stomach—like when you’re just about to get sick
  5. Intestinal: When a food that doesn’t agree with you passes through the upper intestine


Next time you notice an increase in saliva production, think about which phase it might be, and be thankful for all of your spit’s beneficial qualities!

Happy National Smile Month!

There’s nothing happier than a healthy smile, so it’s important to build good dental hygiene habits in children early on. Those habits can be as simple as brushing and flossing for the recommended length of time every day and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings.

We’re taught early on that brushing is key to maintaining a healthy mouth and a sparkling smile. Brushing reduces the bacteria in the mouth that can eventually cause decay, so it’s best to wash as much away as possible. To do that, children should brush for at least two minutes, twice a day. As soon as teeth are visible in the mouth, parents should begin brushing them for their child. It’s recommended that an adult help children eight years old and younger to make sure it’s done thoroughly every time, until they’re knowledgeable enough to do it on their own.

To make sure brushing is most effective, using a fluoride toothpaste will increase the benefits of twice-daily brushing, especially in children. Children under three only need a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste across the brush, and three to six year old’s can use a pea-sized amount. By brushing the fluoride toothpaste on all surfaces of the teeth, the child’s teeth will be protected from tooth decay early on, and during the crucial early growing stages of their adult teeth.

To be especially effective, children shouldn’t eat or drink for at least 20 minutes after brushing. Waiting will allow the fluoride to stay on the teeth longer and fight off any early decay. For this reason, brushing right before bedtime is best, so they go to sleep with a clean and protected mouth.

Flossing before bedtime, on the other hand, may not be necessary in children under four years old. As adult teeth grow in, they typically don’t touch each other right away. Since you only need to floss teeth that touch each other, a thorough brushing by an adult should be enough to rid the little one’s mouth of debris and plaque. Just like brushing, an adult will need to help with flossing at first to make sure it’s being done correctly.

Brushing and flossing early on in a child’s life is not only important for good dental health, but also for proper development in other areas. A healthy mouth allows kids to learn to speak properly, interact confidently with family and friends, chew their food thoroughly, and easily chew healthy fibrous foods like vegetables and fruits that will positively impact their overall health. It’s important that kids’ diets are filled with these healthy foods instead of sugary or starchy foods, because the latter will feed bacteria in the mouth that causes decay.

Missing brushings, eating sugary foods, and neglecting to brush for the recommended amount of time can cause poor oral health problems for kids. These problems can escalate in ways that make children miss school more often and can lead to lower grades as a result. If a student is suffering with untreated tooth decay, they may be in pain that distracts them from paying attention in class. The discomfort may also make it difficult for them to sleep at night which will also hurt their performance in school.

Another way to make sure kids stay healthy and happy in school is by carefully monitoring what they eat, and when. The chances a child will get a cavity increases significantly if they eat or drink snacks or sugary beverages more than five times a day, and especially right before bedtime. The production and flow of saliva slows down when we sleep, so bacteria isn’t washed away as quickly after our head hits the pillow.

One source of sugar that’s often overlooked and often consumed right before bed are liquid medications. If your child is sick, it’s best to give them their cold medicine before they brush their teeth. Even following the medicine with a glass of water will help wash the sugar away.

The key to a happy kid is a happy mouth so start teaching these habits early for a lifetime of sparkling smiles!

From Oral to Overall: The Mouth Body Connection

We know that maintaining excellent oral hygiene prevents bad breath and reduces your risk of developing toothaches, cavities, and gum disease, but it goes even deeper than that. The case for good oral hygiene keeps getting stronger, because failing to take proper care of your mouth can lead to periodontal disease and other serious conditions. When bacteria in the mouth spreads throughout the body, it can cause diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke, preterm labor, and more.

Your mouth also acts as a window to what’s going on in the rest of your body—all it takes is a look or a swab for doctors to learn a lot about your overall health. With a sample of your saliva, professionals can detect early signs of systemic disease including AIDS and diabetes. Systemic diseases affect your entire body, not just one part, and more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms early on.

Saliva is a helpful tool for detecting substances like cortisol levels, bone fragments that may indicate bone loss, and certain cancer markers. Illegal drugs, environmental toxins, and antibodies indicating hepatitis or HIV infection can be measured by routine saliva testing, which can even be done at home. Because it’s so easy, saliva testing may replace blood testing as a means of monitoring diabetes, Parkinson’s, cirrhosis of the liver, and other infectious diseases.

In addition to being an indicator of warning signs, saliva contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens and proteins (histatins) that inhibit the growth of a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans. When these proteins are weakened by infection or illness, candida can grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection called oral thrush.

Saliva also contains enzymes that destroy disease-causing bacteria, but with 500+ species of bacteria that thrive in your mouth, saliva can’t destroy it all. That’s when plaque is formed. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that sticks to your teeth at the gum line and allows bacteria to accumulate between your gum and your teeth. This infection is known as gingivitis, which can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis.

These infections are what make it possible for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. If you have gum disease, invasive treatments and even brushing can create an entry point for bacteria to join the bloodstream. For people with healthy immune systems, fighting off oral bacteria and preventing infection is not a problem. But if disease has weakened your immune system, the introduction of oral bacteria in your bloodstream may cause infection elsewhere in your body.

Infected gums can cause you to lose teeth, but the effects might not stop there. Recent studies suggest a connection between oral infections and poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and preterm birth. If you want to make sure your body stays healthy, take good care of your teeth and gums every single day.

World Oral Health Day – Feed Your Teeth

We know that regular brushing and flossing are necessary when it comes to keeping your teeth free of plaque and tartar build up. But your diet can help take your quest for oral health one step further. When you follow a well-balanced diet, your body—including the mouth—gets the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, fend off infection, and keep your smile beautiful.

Foods that are high in sugar, carbohydrates, and starch are also high in plaque acids. These acids are abrasive and cause the tooth enamel to weaken. This breakdown of enamel is often the cause of cavities, which can lead to bigger problems including gum disease and tooth decay.

Realistically, it’s hard to avoid food that contains some form of sugar: even go-to healthy foods including milk and vegetables are culprits. So instead of cutting sugar out completely, it’s most important to consume added sugars in moderation to limit the effect on your enamel and gums.

Packing on sugary treats like candy and soda can wreak havoc on your oral health and may cause a decline in your overall health. To combat those foes, we recommend the following healthy foods to keep your mouth happy and your wellness optimal.



If cheese is one of your favorite indulgences, you’re in luck. Cheese contains enamel-strengthening nutrients like calcium and protein, but it doesn’t stop there. Chewing this (sometimes stinky) snack creates a surplus of saliva in the mouth, which in turn increases the pH levels. That high level of pH is great for fending off tooth decay and keeping the tooth surface clean.



The calcium and protein in yogurt, like cheese, aid in the strengthening and health of your teeth. Additionally, the good bacteria in yogurt (probiotics) benefit your gums by outnumbering the bad bacteria that causes cavities. There are a lot of yogurt options on the market, so we recommend plain yogurt with no added sugar or flavoring to gain the maximum benefit.


Leafy Greens

Lush and leafy greens are a key part of a healthy diet. The folic acid they contain is a great source of vitamin B, which is known to treat gum disease, especially in pregnant women. Whether you put them in a salad, on pizza, or in a smoothie, leafy greens are an easy way to pack your diet with vitamins and minerals you may be missing.



Like cheese, even the action of eating an apple is beneficial to your mouth because of the saliva it produces. Apples also contain a lot of water that aids in washing away bacteria and food particles that may otherwise build up and cause future damage. They’re also high in fiber which stimulates the gums and scrubs away leftover germs.



Crunchy carrots have the same saliva-producing element of apples, helping to wash away the chance of cavities. High in fiber and vitamin A, carrots are the perfect accent on top of a salad, and they’re also easy to grab and go when you’re on the move.



Though the strings in celery can be annoying, they also act as nature’s toothbrush. The crunchy vegetable increases saliva production while simultaneously scrapes food particles and bacteria away from your teeth. Celery is also good for your gums, giving them a boost of vitamins A and C.



High in crunch and calcium, almonds are low in sugar. They also have an abrasive texture which can work like an exfoliator for your teeth to remove surface stains and bacteria.


Drink up!

If you incorporate all of the above into your diet, you should still pay attention to what you’re drinking. Water is always the safest, healthiest option since it doesn’t contain calories, sugar, or anything that isn’t natural.

Keep Those Whites Pearly

Some of our favorite indulgences can wreak havoc on your teeth. Whether you can’t start your day without a cup of coffee (or three), love to unwind with a glass of red wine, haven’t kicked your smoking habit, or you have a sweet tooth that just won’t quit, these and other rituals leave your teeth susceptible to stains without proper prevention and treatment. If you do a good job of staying on top of your dental hygiene, you can avoid a mouth full of discoloration and smile-fading stains.

There are two kinds of stains: intrinsic (permanent), and extrinsic (removable). Intrinsic stains occur below the surface of the tooth early in life, inside the protective enamel. They tend to develop when young teeth and enamel are growing and can be caused by a high fever, taking certain antibiotics, or drinking water that contains large amounts of fluoride. Some are more likely to see these types of stains because of their genetic predisposition. Since you can’t change your genetic makeup, patients will look to dental solutions like laminates (a thin layer applied to the tooth’s surface), or crowns (a cap that goes over the entire tooth), to change the appearance of their teeth when the stains can’t be removed.

On the other hand, extrinsic stains are caused by consuming highly pigmented foods and can usually be removed and even prevented. These stain-causing perpetrators include nicotine, green tea, coffee, and red wine that are high in a compound called polyphenol. The effects of these foods and drinks show up as stains when the pigment latches onto the plaque buildup that’s already on your teeth. Because plaque is porous, it absorbs the color in these liquids and foods, and if enough food, saliva, and bacteria builds up along the gumline, the plaque will harden and turn into tartar, which is a lot harder to remove. A trip to the dentist for a professional cleaning is usually the first step to reversing discoloration caused by tartar build up.

While no one is exempt from the buildup of plaque-causing bacteria, some mouths are genetically predisposed to an excess of plaque and therefore the possibility of stained teeth. At the same time, other mouths naturally produce saliva in high quantities which helps to fight off bacteria and keep the gum line clear. For these reasons and more, the susceptibility of your teeth to stains depends on a combination of genetic factors out of your control, and how much stain-causing food you’re consuming.

You’ve heard the saying “everything in moderation,” and the same goes for stain-causing foods. If you love coffee, you don’t have to eliminate it from your life to keep your teeth stain-free. If you have five cups each morning and don’t thoroughly remove plaque buildup, you’re likely to see some stains. On the other hand, if you keep it to a cup or two a day and take brushing seriously, you may not see staining. Another way to have your coffee and drink it too is by sipping stain-prone beverages through a straw. Though it may diminish the drinking experience of red wine or coffee, it will prevent what you’re drinking from making direct contact with the front of your teeth.

Like consuming stain-causing foods and beverages in moderation, there are things you can do to prevent pesky spots dimming your pearly whites. Limiting your intake of sugary foods that will linger on the gumline is a good place to start. In fact, while many people think black coffee is the worst stain culprit, adding sticky sugar will actually increase the chances of staining. The same goes for sugars found in any other carbohydrate-heavy foods, so it’s important to be mindful of what you’re allowing to stick to your teeth and be sure to remove it with at least one thorough tooth brushing every day.

Dentists recommend brushing twice a day, and for at least two full minutes at least one of those times. Don’t want to count? Electric toothbrushes often have built-in timers to help you keep track, and the small movement is also less abrasive on the teeth and gumline. While the idea of carrying an electric toothbrush around with you would sound good to your dentist, we know it’s not realistic. To wash away plaque on the go, we recommend rinsing with mouthwash to get rid of particles that may be a threat to the surface of your teeth.

If those preventative measures don’t do the trick, there are a multitude of hydrogen-peroxide based whitening products you can get at any pharmacy. Some of these over-the-counter options, like mouthwashes and whitening strips, may give you a quick burst of brightness, others may take longer depending on the inner makeup of your teeth. If the chemical-based whitening tools come up short, the best think you can do it visit your dentist. A regular cleaning will wash away tartar build up and any yellow tint you might be experiencing, and clean your gum line so you can start fresh.