They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s especially true with oral health. The amount of time and attention that we devote to preventive care goes a long way toward helping to keep our mouths healthy and minimizing our dental costs. But are you really doing all that you can to promote good oral health? Follow these tips to help improve your oral health care.
Tip #1: Brush at bedtime and don’t forget to floss.
The daily one-two punch of brushing twice with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once is still the foundation for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Schedule one of your brushing sessions right before bed to prevent bacteria from sitting on your teeth overnight. For a refresher on brushing and flossing, watch these videos on how to brush your teeth and how to floss your teeth.
Tip #2: Replace your toothbrush every three to six months.
After normal wear and tear, your toothbrush will become frayed and less effective at removing plaque and bacteria. Replace your toothbrush so that you’re cleaning your teeth and gums with bristles that are up to the task. Do you know when to change your electric toothbrush head?
Tip #3: Stop chewing on pens and pencils.
This habit can actually wear down the edges of your teeth. It can even cause a fracture. If you must chew on something, try a carrot or celery stick.
Tip #4: Eat for oral health.
Choose foods rich in vitamin C such as leafy vegetables; foods with folic acid including spinach and broccoli; and foods with vitamin B12 such as dairy and meat. Dairy foods also contain calcium and yogurt has phosphates that can help remineralize teeth.
Tip #5: Drink for oral health.
Choose water as your beverage of choice to help rinse away harmful bacteria. Drinking milk is also good for tooth and bone health. Limit alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks, all of which can take their toll on your teeth. Also, don’t “nurse” that latte throughout the day—the less exposure to your teeth, the better.
Tip #6: If you can’t brush right after a meal, chew sugar-free gum.
Chewing sugar free gum stimulates saliva, which helps to dilute acid and dislodge food particles from the mouth. Mints and cough drops are extremely destructive to the mouth and teeth.
Tip #7: If you smoke, quit.
Smoking and vaping leads to yellow teeth, increased buildup of plaque, and bad breath. Smoking also increases your risk of oral cancer. Quitting goes a long way toward protecting your oral health. For inspiration to quit, watch this video on the health and cost benefits of quitting smoking.
Tip #8: Schedule regular dental exams and cleanings.
Visit your dentist regularly to stay on top of your oral health. Dental x-rays will help assess the health of your mouth. A professional cleaning will reach places that you cannot on your own. The visit will also allow your dentist to catch decay in its earliest, most treatable stages.
Tip #9: Ask your dentist about fluoride.
The naturally occurring mineral compound, fluoride, helps make our teeth more resistant to cavities. If you have a high risk for cavities, you may be a candidate for a topical fluoride administered by your dentist or dental hygienist.
Tip #10: Talk to your dentist about sealants.
Sealants may be applied to the surface of your back teeth and act as a barrier to prevent cavities. Children and teenagers are often candidates for sealants, but adults may be as well. If you have dental insurance, be sure to review your benefits to see if this is a covered procedure so you will know of any potential out-of-pocket costs.
Tip #11: Consider periodontal maintenance.
If you have the start of gum disease, such as gingivitis or receding gums, you may be a candidate for periodontal maintenance. A periodontist can remove bacteria, plaque and tartar from under the gum line through special procedures.
Tip #12: If you suspect an oral health problem, take care of it.
You may be tempted to ‘wait and see.’ But the longer you wait, the more expensive the treatment may be to correct the problem. Seek professional dental help as soon as possible.
Jeffrey L. Angart, DDS
Jacque Spurlock, RDH, BS