Keep a Sparkling Smile From Childhood to Old Age
There are so many good reasons to keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy. Their sparkling smiles. Being able to chew for good nutrition. Avoiding toothaches and discomfort. And new research suggests that gum disease can lead to other problems in the body, including increased risk of heart disease.
In fact, most experts agree that almost all tooth decay and most gum disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene. We’re talking about taking a few minutes each day to brush and floss. That’s not a lot in return for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy from childhood to old age. Here’s how:
1. Start children early. Once that first tooth appears – usually around six months – you should begin a child’s dental care. Teeth can be wiped with a clean, damp cloth or a very soft brush. At about age 2, you can let kids try brushing for themselves — although it’s important to supervise. Start early and avoid your child being part of the 50% of children between the ages of 12 and 15 who have cavities.
2. Seal off trouble. Permanent molars come in around age 6. Thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth can prevent decay in the pits and fissures. Yet only one in three U.S. kids receives dental sealants. Talk to your dentist at Personal Care Dentistry.
3. Use fluoride. Fluoride strengthens enamel, making it less likely to decay. Three out of four Americans drink water that is fluoridated. If your water isn’t fluoridated (i.e. you drink bottled water), talk to your dentist at Personal Care Dentistry, who may suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth. Many toothpastes and mouth rinses also contain fluoride.
4. Brush twice a day and floss daily. Gum disease and tooth decay remain big problems — and not just for older people. Three-fourths of teenagers have gums that bleed, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Also remember to change your toothbrush 3 to 4 times a year.
5. Rinse or chew gum after meals. In addition to brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial rinse can help prevent decay and gum problems. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes bacteria away and neutralizes acid.
6. Block blows to teeth. Most school teams now require children to wear mouth guards. But remember: unsupervised recreational activities like skate-boarding and roller-blading can also result in injuries. Your dentist can make a custom-fitted mouth guard.
7. Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco. Tobacco stains teeth and significantly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, consider quitting. Counsel your kids not to start.
8. Eat smart. At every age, a healthy diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums. A well-balanced diet of whole foods — including grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products — will provide all the nutrients you need for healthy teeth and gums. Some researchers believe that omega-3 fats, the kind found in fish, may also reduce inflammation, thereby lowering risk of gum disease.
9. Avoid sugary foods. When bacteria in the mouth break down simple sugars, they produce acids that can erode tooth enamel, opening the door to decay. Sugary drinks, including soft drinks and fruit drinks, pose a special threat because people tend to sip them, raising acid levels over a long period of time. Sticky candies are another culprit, because they linger on teeth surfaces.
10. Make an appointment. Most experts recommend a dental check-up every 6 months — more often if you have problems like gum disease. During a routine exam, your dental hygienist will remove plaque build-up that you can’t brush or floss away and look for signs of decay. They will also look for early signs of oral cancer, wear and tear from teeth grinding, and signs of gum disease.