For COL April Snyder, a passion for oral health runs in the family. Her dad is a dentist, and she eventually followed in his footsteps and entered the profession as well.
Snyder received a scholarship from the Army to support her dentistry studies at the University of Colorado. After graduating, she served eight years as an active duty Soldier before transitioning into the Minnesota Army National Guard (ARNG).
Snyder has held many roles in the dental profession, from owning her own dental practice in Minnesota to serving as the Chief Dental Officer for the ARNG. Currently, she works as the Health Policy Branch Chief for the National Guard Bureau’s Office of the Joint Surgeon. Although Snyder no longer practices as a full-time dentist, she still has clinical practice hours.
Whether she is treating a civilian or a Soldier, she enjoys being able to meet people from different backgrounds. Educating her patients on their dental health has been the most rewarding aspect of her career, Snyder said.
“It’s easy to say, ‘just brush your teeth,’ but it doesn’t help if you grew up never being told that, and if you really don’t know how to do it correctly.” she said. “My goal is to help Soldiers understand what they can do to make their dental health better.”
Snyder has made it her mission to help Soldiers protect their dental health. Check out her five tips for a healthier smile:
1. Find a Local Dentist
Spend time searching for a dentist you can trust and want to visit for your twice-a-year check-ups and teeth cleanings. “If you can establish a good relationship with your dentist, it’s easier for you to go to them when you are having [dental] trouble,” Snyder said.
2. Maintain Dental Readiness
“Anyone who has ever had a toothache knows how much it can affect the work you are doing,” Snyder said. Whether you have a cavity or need a root canal, it is important to fix your dental issues to maintain your dental readiness. This is especially important before deploying. “When we mobilize, the level of dental care isn’t the same as it is when you are at home; and convoying someone to get treatment for a dental issue puts everyone at risk,” she said.
3. Try an Electric Toothbrush
Snyder explains that many people fail to brush their teeth for the necessary two minutes, twice a day. She recommends swapping out a manual toothbrush for an electric one with a built-in timer. If using a manual toothbrush, she suggests setting a timer for two minutes.
If you’re a heavy-handed brusher, switch to your non-dominant hand when brushing your teeth. This will help ease your grip and prevent aggressive brushing.
3. Get Creative with Your Flossing Time
While flossing in the evening is ideal, Snyder suggests creating a routine that works with your schedule. Instead of the evening, try flossing first thing in the morning or right after lunch. Or, perfect your smile while you binge-watch TV on the couch.
4. Practice Mindful Eating and Drinking
“If you are eating and drinking all day, you increase the amount of sugars [in your mouth] for bacteria and acid to cause problems for your teeth,” Snyder said. It is important to keep in mind that any food or drink, apart from water, will impact your teeth. To manage sugars, she advises against snacking or grazing on food throughout the day. Avoid continuously sipping sugary and acidic drinks (like soda and juice). If you chew gum, make sure it is sugar-free.