Love waking up to the smell of coffee? Think twice before you reach for a cup! Your daily dose of Joe — and other habits that can easily escape your notice — could be giving you a bad case of morning breath. But fear not! Bad breath, or “halitosis”, doesn’t have to ruin your day. Nip the problem in the (taste)buds by giving these simple tips a try:
- Cut the caffeine.
Coffee isn’t the only beverage in town that can leave your breath less than fresh. Gulping down certain teas and energy drinks for a morning buzz may result in bad breath if they contain caffeine, which can inhibit the production of saliva. When the mouth is too dry, it allows oral bacteria, the main purveyor of halitosis, to flourish. To jumpstart the mind and body without this unpleasant side effect, turn to morning stretches and a refreshing smoothie or citrus-infused water instead. If you have to consume caffeinated beverages, be sure to hydrate with multiple glasses of water.
- Stop smoking.
Besides putting you at risk for lung cancer, smoking cigarettes can stain your teeth and cause your breath to smell bad, dealing your oral health a double whammy. From the combustion of chemical additives to the tiny smoke particles left in your throat and lungs, it’s almost inevitable that your breath ends up tasting and smelling stale. If you feel the urge to take a puff in the morning, distract yourself by doing light chores, or going for a quick walk. Obviously, a smoking habit may cause a more chronic breath problem, so quitting cigarettes and other forms of tobacco is your best bet for a more permanent solution.
- Don’t skip breakfast.
Pass on the coffee and cigarettes, but eat breakfast — and a nutritious one at that! After a long night’s sleep, your mouth could benefit from a boost in saliva production, and a good meal is the perfect way to do it. Grab an apple for its high water content and crunchiness, both of which can help cut down on odor-causing bacteria. Yogurt and eggs can also promote saliva production while giving you a healthy serving of calcium and vitamin D. Get creative, but be selective, as some of your favorite breakfast foods may include not-so-breath-friendly ingredients such as garlic or onions.
- Do a better job of brushing and flossing.
You’re running late, but if there’s one thing you shouldn’t rush, it’s your morning dental routine. From stuck food particles to gingivitis and even nasty tonsil stones, it all adds up to one major case of halitosis if left unchecked. For mornings where standard brushing and flossing doesn’t seem to do the trick, get a deeper clean by scraping the gunk off your tongue and gargling with mouthwash. If you find yourself flying out the door and forgetting about your oral hygiene frequently, keep a travel-sized dental kit in your bag or at the office for convenience.
- Check (and change) your sleeping habits.
More often than not, bad breath is noticeable the moment you wake up. The problem may not be what you eat or drink, or even how your brush and floss. Instead, it could be how you breathe during your sleep. Breathing orally throughout the night can quickly turn your mouth into a haven for oral bacteria, resulting in a parched sensation and an unpleasant odor. Depending on the severity of the situation, your dentist may recommend surgery, but something as simple as having a glass of water, sugar-free lozenge, or a humidifier on hand at night can help keep your mouth moist.
Let Your Dentist Have a Look
In some cases, morning breath that persists despite your efforts to remedy it may signal something more serious, from cavities and tooth infections, to diabetes and liver and kidney problems. Play it safe by seeing your dentist. He or she can help you determine and treat the root cause more efficiently, and provide you with a personalized treatment plan to rid yourself of the problem for good.
5 Ways to Maximize Your Dental Benefits Plan
With terms like PPO, HMO, in-network, and out-of-network to describe dental benefits, it’s no surprise that many don’t understand how to make the most of their plan. This means you may be overlooking benefits that are critical to maintaining your oral health.
Don’t settle for just what you understand as part of your coverage. Read on for 5 simple tips to take advantage of everything your plan has to offer.
Tip #1: Take Time to Understand Your Plan
The best way to take advantage of your plan is to ensure you know the type of plan it is and its deductibles, copayments, and annual maximums.
There are two main types of dental plans:
HMO Plans – With an HMO, you’ll be required to choose a dentist in your primary network to handle most of your needs. You are charged a relatively low co-payment for office visits, procedures, etc. There is no coverage if you visit an out-of-network provider. HMOs typically have no deductible or maximum.
PPO Plans – With a PPO, you have the option to see both in-network and out-of-network providers, but coverage is better if you stay in network. Once you hit your deductible, you are reimbursed for a percentage of office visits, procedures, etc. The percentage may vary depending on the treatment and is much higher if you see an in-network dentist.
Key things to understand about your plan are its:
- Deductible – The dollar amount you must pay for covered services prior to claiming benefits under your plan.
- Copayment – A fixed dollar amount you must pay when you visit your dentist. Some plans with copayments don’t have a deductible whereas others may have both.
- Annual Maximum – The maximum amount a plan will pay for dental care for an individual or family during a specific benefit period (often, benefit periods last for 12 months).
Tip #2: Take Advantage of All Benefits Covered Under Your Plan
In addition to understanding the basics of your plan, it is important to explore all of the associated benefits.
Most individuals are aware of and will use diagnostic and preventative services for professional cleanings every 6 months. These services are often covered in full by HMO plans and between 80% and 100% by PPO plans.
However, there are other benefits that should be included both in your plan booklet and online. These benefits may cover restorative care (like fillings), major restorative care (like crowns and bridges), as well as orthodontic care. By doing your research, you can determine what procedures are covered, what limitations each procedure has, and if there are any exclusions.
Tip #3: Use a Dentist in Your Network
One of the most significant challenges for many individuals is determining whether or not a dentist is in their network. This can be particularly difficult for plans that have multiple networks because dentists may participate in all or some of them.
If you choose a dentist that is out of your network, the amount of insurance coverage you receive for your treatments will vary. As such, seeing an in-network dentist allows you to maximize your benefits.
Coverage will differ if you go out of network on either type of dental plan:
HMO Plans – If you visit a dentist other than your primary or a referred specialist, your services won’t be covered (even if that dentist is also in your network).
PPO Plans – PPO plans allow you to visit any licensed dentist and you will still be covered. However, choosing a dentist in your network offers top savings (allowing you to maximize your benefits and coverage).
Tip #4: Control Expenses with Treatment Plans
To maximize your benefits, it is best to schedule treatments in advance to align with your annual maximum. In many cases, you can strategically plan multi-stage treatments with your dental professional to minimize your costs as much as possible. Of course, it is also important to be prepared for unforeseen dental emergencies.
Tip #5: Track Claims and Remaining Benefits
Track claims as you receive treatment so you are aware of when you are approaching your annual maximum. After each appointment, review your treatment summary to see what your carrier covered. Then, subtract this amount from your annual maximum to calculate your remaining coverage for the given benefit period.
Get What You Pay for by Maximizing Your Benefits
You sign up for dental insurance for the benefits and you should receive what you paid for. By utilizing each of the tips above, you can make the most of all your benefits and keep your smile looking great.