Healthy Teeth, Healthy Life
Home is the place where children pick up their first and most enduring values and habits in life. So, it makes perfect sense for the family to lay the foundations for a healthy lifestyle. One of the most important aspects of well-being begins with dental and oral hygiene. Dental hygiene can also help to keep many other diseases at bay.
Here are 10 simple yet vital tips which can help all members of a family to maintain healthy and strong teeth.
1. Start early
It is estimated that 25 percent of children develop tooth decay before the age of joining school. Around half of the children in the age group of 12 to 15 years have cavities. This is why Caryn Solie, the president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, feels that dental care should start right from the time a baby’s first tooth appears which is around six months of age. A clean, moist cloth or even an extremely soft brush can be used to gently wipe or brush the little teeth. From the age of 2, children should be trained to start brushing on their own.
These can significantly reduce the formation of cavities. Sealants act as a thin protective coating on the chewing surfaces of premolars and molars. This helps in preventing decay in fissures and crevices. Despite its obvious advantages, only 33 percentage of the children use sealants in the U.S. A dental professional can be consulted for this purpose around the age of 6 when the premolars start appearing.
3. Cautious fluoride use
Drinking fluoridated water helps in reducing enamel decay. Nearly 75 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water. If the water is non-fluoridated, a dental professional can guide the use of a fluoride application on the teeth. Many toothpastes and mouthwashes also have fluoride content. However, such toothpastes should be used cautiously in children as too much of it can cause white spots to appear on the teeth. For children a pea sized blob of such toothpaste on the brush would be sufficient.
4. Floss daily and brush two times a day
Tooth decay and gum disease can be significantly decreased by following these simple hygiene routines. Toothbrushes have to be replaced after every 3 to 4 months. People wearing braces should consult a dentist as they might have to use special toothbrushes. Elderly suffering from arthritis and certain health issues can experience difficulty in holding and using a toothbrush and floss. They can use brushes with better grips or electric toothbrushes.
5. Oral hygiene after every meal
Make it a practice to rinse the mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash after every meal. Chewing sugar-free gum after meals will increase saliva production, which acts a natural cleansing and an acid neutralising agent.
6. Protect against blows
Wearing mouth guards can protect teeth when engaged in contact sports. These are available at sports stores and can be made to fit in the mouth by softening it with hot water. Custom fitted guards can also be made by a dentist.
7. Avoid smoking and tobacco
Smoking and tobacco use not only stains the teeth, but also causes gum disease. Children should be advised to avoid these.
8. Consume a healthy diet
A healthy and balanced diet of whole foods will provide nutrients which keep the gums and teeth healthy. Omega 3 fats found in fish are said to reduce gum disease because of anti-inflammatory properties.
9. Reduce sugary foods
The bacteria in the mouth as well as plaque can break down sugars to produce acids. These acids can have a corrosive effect on teeth accelerating decay. Sodas, soft drinks, juice and health drinks, which are consumed slowly, expose teeth to such risks over a longer time period. Carbonated drinks are worse, as the acidity erodes the teeth more. Sticky candies and food items which stick onto the teeth pose similar issues.
10. Regular dental checkup
A dental checkup should be done every six months or even more frequently in the case of gum diseases. A regular dental examination has the following benefits:
- The dentist removes accumulated plaque which cannot be eliminated by brushing or flossing. He also looks for early signs of tooth decay.
- Early detection of oral cancer helps in curing it through treatment before it spreads to other areas. 90 percent of such cases can be treated if detected early enough.
- Bruxism or grinding of the teeth under stress or anxiety makes the teeth more vulnerable to decay and wear and tear.
- If the signs of teeth grinding are found, a mouth guard can be worn at night to prevent it.
- Gum disease also known as periodontitis or gingivitis can lead to tooth loss in the elderly. Regular checkup can detect this early.
- Medications can cause dryness of mouth or xerostomia in elderly. The dentist can help by changing the prescription or suggesting oral mouthwashes.
- A lifetime of healthy teeth can be easily achieved by following these simple practices regularly. Preventing oral health problems in turn help in preventing a host of other related diseases as well.