Most of us understand the importance of brushing twice each day to maintain a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums. But oral care is increasingly being connected to full body health and wellness. In fact, poor oral health is directly linked to heart diesease, diabetes, cancer, and many of the other too-common ailments plaguing the American population. Tooth decay is the #1 chronic childhood disease in our country, and it is preventable!
Brushing will only get us so far toward our goal of complete oral health. There are several easy things you can add to your dental care routine to ensure that you and your family are as healthy as possible. Here are our tips:
Our teeth are made of calcium — so it’s only natural that calcium-rich foods are beneficial for your oral health. Make sure you’re eating and drinking an appropriate amount of milk, yogurt, cheese, and other foods that contain calcium.
Get enough Vitamin D — it’s crucial for the effective absorption of calcium into our bodies. We get Vitamin D primarily from the sun’s rays — so spending time outdoors is actually beneficial to your teeth! If you aren’t able to be outside as much as you’d like, a multivitamin that contains Vitamin D or a Vitamin D supplement can also be helpful.
Beware of highly-acidic foods like citrus fruit, coffee, and wine. The acid in these foods and drinks will erode your tooth enamel. We recommend limiting highly-acidic foods and drinks, using an enamel-protecting toothpaste, and brushing and flossing after eating or drinking something acidic.
Watch your sugar intake. This seems obvious, but in today’s packaged foods, sodas, and sweets, there is sugar in many food and beverage products that you wouldn’t traditionally think of as “sugary.” Just one example: a bowl of Special K Fruit & Yogurt cereal with 1/3 cup skim milk has more sugar (16g) than a package of Fun Dip candy (13g). For more of these surprising high-sugar foods, see this article from Cosmopolitan magazine. Too much sugar and starch in our diets will also create an ideal environment for the growth of oral bacteria.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is beneficial for all of your bodily systems, and your mouth is no exception. Saliva, which depends on adequate water intake, is your mouth’s first line of defense against dryness, bacteria growth, and acid erosion. The adequate production of saliva is key to fighting the growth of bacteria in our mouths: without enough water, our saliva production decreases and our mouths are susceptible to bacteria growth, which can result in tooth decay and gum disease. The most common type of bacteria in the human mouth is streptococcus mutans, which feeds on sugars and starches that we eat, then produces enamel-eroding acids which lead to oral problems. So trade your soda, fruit juice, or coffee for some H2o!
Think about your oral health even when you’re not near your toothbrush and floss. If you’re at work or on the go, you may not be able to follow every meal with a healthy brushing and flossing to remove sugars and bacteria. Although not a replacement for brushing, we’ve found several ways to care for your teeth no matter where you are: 1) Certain crunchy foods, such as raw apples and carrots, act as a natural toothbrush by cleaning your teeth as you chew. 2) If you’re sure you won’t be able to brush or floss for awhile, avoid sugary/starchy/sticky foods and opt instead for healthy foods that won’t linger in your mouth as much. 3) Use a disposable “on the go” toothbrush like Colgate Wisp® — keep them in your car’s glove compartment, purse, toiletry bag, desk, or gym bag. 4) At the very least, rinse your mouth out with water after a meal on the go. This can prevent small bits of food and sugar from settling into the cracks and crevices in your mouth.
Stop skipping the floss! If you don’t floss, you’re missing approximately 35% of your tooth surfaces. Flossing is the only oral hygiene method that can remove plaque and bacteria from the “betweeen the teeth” dental surfaces. Flossing regularly (meaning every day) can also improve the aesthetics of your smile by preserving your gums and contributing to the strength of the bones that support the lower half of your face — people who are regular flossers generally age better than their counterparts who do not! For our patients with families, teaching children to incorporate flossing into their daily routines is one of the best things you can do to ensure their lifelong oral health.
See us once every six months, rather than once per year, for a cleaning and checkup. Proper at-home oral hygiene is great, but there is no replacement for the thorough, deep cleaning your teeth receive at your regular checkups. Not only will checkups every six months ensure cleaner teeth and a healthier mouth, but we’ll also be able to detect any dental issues or oral problems earlier.
Practice moderation. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and high levels of caffeine consumption can wreak havoc on your overall wellness, oral health included. Smokers are 4x more likely to develop oral cancer than their non-smoking counterparts — avoid tobacco in any form. Heavy alcohol consumption can contribute to oral and throat cancers, as well as contribute to enamel erosion. Caffeinated beverages, especially dark ones like coffee, tea, and dark sodas, will discolor teeth. Many of our favorite caffeinated beverages also contain sugar — and the combination of sugar with the acid of these caffeinated beverages creates a particularly ideal environment for acid erosion and bacteria growth.
Dental discount plans are a fantastic alternative or supplement to traditional dental insurance coverage. Dental care costs are consistently rising in the United States. With a dental discount plan, an individual, family, or business/organization can affordable ensure that their oral healthcare needs will be met despite the ever-increasing costs of care and traditional coverage. A dental discount plan is ideal for anyone, including those for whom dental coverage is unavailable or inadequate through their employer, college students, businesses, families, self-employed people, and more. Our favorite plan and the one we’re proud to offer at RVD is Wellness Dental Access.
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