9 Essential Products to Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy, According to a Dentist

Philips/Listerine/Crest/Sensodyne/Waterpik/Amazon
Philips/Listerine/Crest/Sensodyne/Waterpik/Amazon

When you went into quarantine this spring, you probably had to cancel quite a few obligations—and if your regular visit to the dentist was one of them, your oral hygiene could be suffering right now. Plenty of issues can crop up without regular cleanings and preventative care, especially if you don't have the right dental health setup at home. And with different states facing different restrictions, it might be a while before you get an appointment (or even feel comfortable enough to go to an office). That's why Mental Floss reached out to Dr. Kyle Bogan, DDS, to find out about the essential products you need in your bathroom to take care of your teeth and gums while you wait to get back in the dreaded dentist's chair.

1. Dental Floss

Oral-B Floss on Amazon.
Oral-B/Amazon

Yes, you probably hate doing it, but flossing is such an important step in your dental hygiene routine for healthy gums, tartar reduction, and removing plaque from teeth.

“There's a lot of stuff on the market right now to try to make flossing more palatable for people,” Dr. Bogan says. But he cautions that, “[nothing] really replaces the good old-fashioned wrapping-around-your-fingers floss. Oral-B’s Glide is pretty much the best on the market, in my opinion.” You can find a two-pack for around $5 on Amazon.

As for floss picks, they're all the same, he says. “They don't do as good a job as manual floss, but they are perfectly fine and can be good for kids to use.” Plackers Twin-Line Dental Floss Picks ($9 for a four-pack) has two lines of floss to help prevent breakage, and they come in packs of 150.

2. Water Flosser

A Waterpik flosser on Amazon.
Amazon/Waterpik

“If you’re going to use a water flosser, I recommend the Waterpik brand for people with braces to clear debris and for those people that are very reluctant to floss,” Dr. Bogan says. “They're better than not flossing, but despite the advertising, they're not as good as flossing.” Waterpik's water flosser ($70) is touted as the only model on the market to have the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance.

For those who have gum disease, gum recession, or bridge work, Dr. Bogan suggests using a water flosser pre- or post-brushing to remove debris and get things out of hard-to-reach areas. Looking to save time? Waterpik has an electric toothbrush and water flosser combo ($151) that does it all.

3. and 4. Electric Toothbrushes and Manual Toothbrushes

A Philips Sonicare toothbrush on Amazon.
Philips/Amazon

“I always recommend people use an electric brush,” Dr. Bogan says. “It does so much of the work for you. It delivers [a] superior level of clean." He recommends Oral-B ($40) or Philips Sonicare ($70) brands, but says Oral-B uses smaller heads, which tend to be easier on smaller mouths.

“The surprising thing is no one should really ever be using a hard- or medium-bristle brush,” Dr. Bogan says. “The problem is those bristles often cause more damage than good. It should either be soft or extra soft, so people [who] are sensitive should use extra soft.”

If you plan on doing the work yourself with a manual brush, like these soft brushes from Colgate ($4 for six), take a look at your toothbrush's head to evaluate its condition. “You definitely want to look at bristles on your manual toothbrush, and if they're bent or warped or worn, it's time to replace the toothbrush or the head on the electric brush,” he says. For electric toothbrushes, he suggests swapping in a new head every three to four months.

5. Toothpaste

Sensodyne toothpaste on Amazon.
Sensodyne/Amazon

“There's a lot of controversy out there about fluoride, but as far as preventing decay and keeping your teeth healthy, that's the main ingredient that matters,” Dr. Bogan says. Some fluoride toothpaste options to consider are Colgate Cavity Protection with Fluoride ($8 for a six-pack) or Crest Toothpaste Gum Detoxify Deep Clean ($14 for three).

Just be wary of charcoal toothpaste, he warns. “It can be abrasive and damage teeth. I had a few patients where I actually had to dig charcoal out of their gums.” If you have sensitive teeth, using toothpaste like Sensodyne Pronamel Fresh Breath ($10 for two) can help reduce sensitivity and pain.

6. Whitening Kits

Crest whitening kit on Amazon.
Crest/Amazon

“The most effective way to whiten your teeth at home with an over-the-counter product is with Crest Whitening Strips," Dr. Bogan says. You just have to use the strips ($45 for 44 strips) once a day for 30 minutes to help remove years of teeth stains—and Crest claims you’ll start seeing results in three days and full results in 20. Teeth may become more sensitive after using white strips, so consider switching to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth if this happens to you.

7. Orthodontic Wax

Orthomechanic kit on Amazon.
Orthomechanic/Amazon

Whether your kids have braces or you do, rubbing wires is one of the biggest irritations you’ll face. Use orthodontic wax like Genuine Orthowax ($11 for a nine-pack) for a clear solution that can relieve irritation from brackets, springs, and wires in between orthodontist visits.

8. Temporary Dental Filling Materials

Dental care kit on Amazon.
PRS/Amazon

“The best advice I can give to people that know they have either a broken filling or a broken tooth is to look for an over-the-counter filling material,” Dr. Bogan says. “You kind of roll it up and push it down to where the crack is and wipe away the excess or just chew it away and it’s generally pretty good for a temporary fix.” This Zinc Oxide Eugenol Cement Dental Care Kit ($25) can help seal a cavity so no food or bacteria gets in, and it can also help with bridgework and other dental issues. If you simply have a cracked or broken filling, consider Refilit Maximum Strength Filling Material ($11) for a quick fix.

9. Mouthwash

Listerine mouthwash on Amazon.
Listerine/Amazon

Dr. Bogan advises using mouthwash in the morning and fluoride rinse at night to keep teeth and gums healthy. A complete mouthwash should be able to reduce bad breath, fight cavities, and strengthen teeth in 30 seconds of daily swishing, and for this he recommends Listerine Total Care Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash ($7).

“Especially for kids and people in braces, I recommend a nighttime fluoride rinse,” Dr. Bogan says. ACT Restoring Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash ($6) is a popular dentist-recommended brand to help fight cavities.

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10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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This Insulated Growler Keg Lets You Pour Carbonated Beer, Soda, and Cocktails on the Go

GrowlerWerks
GrowlerWerks

The biggest hurdle for taking draft beer on the go is keeping it cold and carbonated once you leave the brewery. And while insulated travel growlers help keep drinks fresh for longer, traditional glass growlers start losing carbonation once they're opened.

Portland-based GrowlerWerks combats the scourge of flat ales with a line of growler kegs featuring built-in tap handles that mimic a brewery-fresh pour. And with the company's lightweight and affordable uKeg Go ($99) model, GrowlerWerks is making sure your sudsy drink of choice can survive all-day cookouts, lazy nights on the patio, or a week in the fridge.

How is the uKeg Go different from a growler?

The main selling point of the 64-ounce uKeg Go is its tap, which dispenses beer just like you'd be served at a brewery. But it’s not as simple as just filling it up and playing bartender—you’ll first need to install an 8g CO2 cartridge before you even pour your first pint. Much like an actual keg, the CO2 is what’ll actually keep your drink nice and foamy after you've filled the growler. (GrowlerWerks sells its own CO2 charges separately at $12 for a pack of 10. Each cartridge should last for the entire 64 ounces.)

The cartridge itself pops right into a sleeve, which you then screw into the bottom of the cap. Once you've tightly secured the cap onto the growler, you can choose your carbonation setting—first position for beer and cider and the second position for soda and cocktails—and start pouring.

Though the system isn’t complex, you’ll definitely want to give the instructions a once-over before you first use it—I wound up wasting my first CO2 cartridge because I didn’t have the cap in the “off” position when I first installed it, resulting in it emptying out before I could even screw it on.

So, does it work?

My first drink—Coke, because my local breweries still aren’t allowing private growler fills due to COVID-19—came out perfectly chilled and fizzy, as if it had just been poured from a fountain. But time is the enemy of all carbonated beverages, so over the next eight hours I poured a few more glasses to see how both the CO2 and the temperature held up.

I found that there was very little difference between that first cold glass at 8:00 a.m. and that final one at 5:00 p.m. The drink suffered virtually no temperature change, thanks to the uKeg Go’s double-wall vacuum insulation, and never lost any of that bubbly character. Even when the keg was left out in the sun from noon to 5:00 p.m., the soda remained unaffected.

GrowlerWerks uKeg Go
GrowlerWerks

Because we're talking about a keg here, I knew I had to test out beer as best I could, so I transferred a few cans to the uKeg, and the result was pretty much the same—the growler maintained the beer’s temperature and carbonation level all day long, resulting in a consistent pour that never lost flavor or crispness. It’s basically indistinguishable from having beer straight from a brewery tap, and it'll probably be my go-to travel vessel anytime I bring local beer on the go.

While these tests simulated bringing the uKeg to an all-day event, the company claims the growler would be able to maintain the carbonation for up to two weeks.

How's the build?

The whole idea behind the uKeg Go is portability—it's meant to travel with you wherever you go, from a backyard barbecue to a weekend excursion out into the woods. And it sports a stainless-steel body that should be up for the challenge. It's lightweight, but the build is sturdy enough that you shouldn't fret that you've got fragile cargo with you (just be aware that there is a tap faucet to think about, so you might not want to jostle it around too much). There's also a convenient handle secured onto the top, making it easy to carry around with a finger or two while also traveling with beach bags and other outdoor necessities.

In terms of appearance, the uKeg Go is sportier and sleeker than the company's traditional uKeg model, looking more like an insulated bottle from HydroFlask or Stanley than a piece of brewery equipment. And there are two colors to choose from: a uniform tungsten gray model and a slightly bolder chili red, which is what I went with.

You can pick up a uKeg Go for $99 on both the GrowlerWerks website or Amazon. There’s also the company’s standard uKeg growler that ranges from 64 to 128 ounces and features a much more nuanced CO2 system. That'll run you $159–$209, depending on the exact model you get. And if coffee is more your speed, the company recently released the uKeg Nitro ($199) model that dispenses creamy, nitro-infused cold brew with the pull of a lever.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.