We don’t think about our teeth often, but they play a big role in our overall health. If you have ever had a significant problem in your mouth, you know how debilitating it can be. Many of the issues that arise in the mouth (cavities, gingivitis, etc.) occur over time and can be prevented if a little more care is taken. Establishing healthy daily habits is essential in keeping your mouth clean and fresh, and your body working at full capacity.
Everyone should be in the habit of brushing at least twice a day. Without it, you will develop cavities very quickly. While most everyone brushes, not everyone does it correctly. What is the most effective way to brush? The American Dental Association recommends the following. Hold your toothbrush against your gums at a 45-degree angle.Brush in short tooth-wide strokes on all surfaces of the teeth.Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth.Don’t forget to brush your tongue to remove bacteria. Use toothpaste with fluoride to help prevent cavities.Use a soft or medium brush head. If the bristles are too hard they can damage the enamel.
Many people forego flossing completely out of sheer laziness or out of an attitude that it really doesn’t matter. Flossing is necessary to get at the plaque and food particles between the teeth that the brush can never reach. If left untouched this plaque will form cavities. Flossing is just as important as brushing. How do you do it? Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand and hold it between the thumbs and forefingers.Rub the floss between your teeth in a gentle motion.When the floss touches the gum line curve it against on tooth and bring it back down to the space between the teeth. Press the floss tightly against the tooth and move it up and down, scraping away plaque and food particles. Floss with a mint flavor will help give you better breath.
In addition to cleaning your teeth daily, what you eat can also have a strong impact on your dental hygiene. As much as you might dislike your dentists advice he is right when he tells you to stay away from the candy and ice cream. Here are some additional tips on diet. Eating firm and crisp foods, such as apples, carrots, celery and popcorn can help clean your teeth.Stay away from excess sugars found in sugary drinks, such as sweetened tea and fruit juices. Foods that stick in your teeth such as bananas and or French fries can create cavities because they sit undisturbed in your mouth. The average person needs about 500 milligrams of calcium a day to keep their teeth healthy and strong. Acidic foods and drinks such as orange juice can destroy the enamel, so eat them sparingly. Limit the amount of snacking you do between meals. If you do snack, make healthy choices.
These tips may seem inconvenient now, but think of all the money you will save on medical costs down the road. Studies have also linked problems with oral hygiene to other diseases such as artery and heart disease. A little more effort, and some extra habits will go a long way.
Dr. Nathan Tanner is a dentist in Billings, MT., who has extensive experience through owning his own practice, Grand Avenue Dental Care, and from teaching cosmetic and pain-free dentistry at the OHSU dental school.