Say Cheese! Ten Tips for Terrific Teeth
Have you ever heard the phrase “health starts at home”?
Basically, it’s saying that parents should teach their children good habits when they’re young so that when they get older they won’t fall into bad habits. After all, home is the place where children pick up the habits and values that will last throughout their lifetime.
As such, 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. It may seem trivial, but good oral health doesn’t just make you look and feel better – it can also help to keep many other diseases at bay. Here are 10 simple yet vital tips to help every member of your family keep their perfect smile:
1. Start early
It is estimated that 25 percent of children develop tooth decay before they’re even old enough to go to school. Around half of 12 to 15 year olds 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.
2. Dental Sealants
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. Brushing and Flossing Everyday
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 people who suffer from arthritis and certain health issues can experience difﬁculty in holding and using a toothbrush and ﬂoss. In such situations, they should use brushes with better grips or even switch to 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 neutralizing agent.
6. Don’t Forget to Wear Protection
Wearing mouth guards can protect your teeth whenever you take part in contact sports like boxing or martial arts. 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. Stop Smoking
Smoking and tobacco use not only stains the teeth, but also causes gum disease (among many, many other issues). Children especially should be advised to avoid these, as even secondhand smoke can negatively affect their health.
8. Eat Your Veggies
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. Put Those Sweets Down
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. Visit Your Dentist Regularly
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.
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Warnings: Children of 6 years and younger – use a pea size amount for supervised brushing to minimize swallowing. In case of intake of fluoride from other source consult a dentist or doctor.
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