Growing up, going to the dentist was my favorite doctor’s appointment–from the bubble gum flavored toothpaste while sitting in the examination chair, the pink princess toothbrush I collected at the end of my visit and the cheeky and corny dentist joke sticker the doctor would hand me before my mom ushered me back to school–taking care of my pearly whites at a young age was a treat. 

Over the years, as life and work sometimes got in the way, oral hygiene outside of the daily practice of brushing twice a day wasn’t a top priority.

But as Howard University Dental School graduate Dr. Karen Fields-Lever so aptly reminded me when she and I spoke candidly, taking care of your teeth is just as important as taking care of everything else. 

The Detroit native, who attended Spelman University for undergrad and completed her residency at Yale, has one major tip for Black women when it comes to oral hygiene.

“I noticed that us Black women, because we’re caretakers, we’re always doing a lot, balancing a lot and we’re always spinning a lot of plates, so there is just overall neglect in things we do,” says Fields-Lever. “With that neglect, we often forget that our oral hygiene means we should be going to the dentist every six months.”

That’s right, proper oral hygiene means taking care of your teeth twice a year with a proper visit to the dentist. 

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As a suggestion for how to maintain the wellbeing of our mouths in between appointments, Fields-Lever says there are three things women should always do. 

“Maintain your teeth by brushing at least twice a day, flossing once a day and having a balanced diet,” she adds. “Doing all these things will keep the bacteria away, keep the plaque away, keep breath fresh and reduce the deterioration of the teeth.”

Health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and other medial diagnosis aren’t the only things that affect our community. Oral problems can be passed down as well. 

“It’s extremely important to be preventative because you could have issues that are hereditary,” says Fields-Lever. “I have patients who say, ‘My parents had gingivitis but they didn’t really enforce good oral hygiene.’ Or, ‘my mom and dad have diabetes and I’m prone to it but that can’t affect my teeth, right?’ What patients have to do is go to the doctor and get checked out. Change the pattern and start brushing. If you don’t manage the thing you can help prevent in your mouth then it can lead to bone rot or losing teeth.”

That’s never a good look. So this Christmas season, if you’re looking for agift that will be a practical one for anyone to unwrap whether young or old, big or small, the married mother of two recommends the Philips Sonicare toothbrush

“An electric toothbrush is great [and] I recommend the Philips Sonicare,” ahe adds. “[It’s] probably the best. It’s a little costly but it’s probably the absolute best. Sometimes my husband, he uses his, he’s like “Dang, Sonicare is almost better than what the hygienist is!”

You can shop for the dentist recommend Philips Sonicare toothbrush here