Life gets busy, and sometimes you don’t always take care of yourself the way you know you should. But dental hygiene is one area where it doesn’t pay to slack off.

Routine Home Cleanings

To ensure the health of your teeth and gums, you should brush and floss after each meal, or at least twice a day. Flossing removes bits of food your toothbrush may not be able to reach. If not removed, these pieces of food can provide nourishment for bacteria, which excrete acid that destroys tooth enamel and causes cavities. Flossing and brushing also removes plaque buildup from your teeth, a sticky substance that can cause gum disease, discoloration of teeth, and tooth decay if not regularly removed. Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar, which can then lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Fortunately you can prevent most of these problems with a simple routine of brushing and flossing regularly.

Regular Dental Checkups

In addition to good dental hygiene at home, you need to visit the dentist twice a year, or about every six months. The dentist will check for cavities and treat them before they become serious. He or she will also scrape away tartar and plaque buildup, and can treat gingivitis before it becomes full-blown gum disease. Visiting the dentist regularly is crucial to keeping your smile beautiful for years to come.

Reduced Costs

Aside from the medical benefits of regular dental care, there are financial reasons to keep at it as well. Many insurance plans will pay for most or all of the price of regular dental appointments, but push more of the responsibility back on you for more costly procedures. For instance, while most patients with insurance pay around 20 percent of their exam fee and the price of getting a cavity filled, they will pay 50 percent of the cost of root canals, crowns or bridges. These procedures can sometimes be avoided with preventive care that finds the problem early and provides treatment. By structuring their payment schedules this way, insurance companies are financially incentivizing their patients to prevent dental problems rather than repair them after they become more serious. Take advantage of this structure by getting regular cleanings and check-ups.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Apply this maxim to your oral health, and save yourself pain and money.