By Dr. Kerri White –
As we age, the need to maintain a good oral routine is as important as ever. The connection between gum disease and heart disease is well documented. Taking care of your oral health will help improve your overall body health.
The good news is we are seeing fewer children with cavities and more adults keeping their teeth for life. The advice that dentists, moms and dads have been giving is working. The bad news is one-third of the population age 65 and older has untreated cavities and 40 percent have gum disease. Not only does this put their teeth and smile at risk, it also can put their health at risk. That is why it’s so important to teach our children to brush and floss daily and set a good example as parents and grandparents by doing the same.
First let’s talk about what a good oral hygiene schedule looks like. Whether you’re young or old, started 50 years ago, or are just starting today, it’s pretty much the same for everyone: brush your teeth twice daily, floss every day and visit your dentist twice a year. It only takes a few minutes a day, gives you a beautiful smile, strong teeth and means those visits to the dentist will likely be quick and easy. That’s not a bad deal for keeping yourself healthy and looking great!
Brushing twice daily and flossing once a day, not only helps keep your breath fresh and smile looking great, it also helps prevent cavity causing agents from forming in harder to reach areas such as between your teeth and deeper down in the surface of the molars. Choosing a soft-bristled brush is best for gums and teeth. Pick one that feels comfortable to hold in your hand and don’t brush so hard that the bristles splay after a week or two of brushing. Make sure you use toothpaste with Fluoride that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This will make sure your teeth are able to remineralize weakened enamel and protect against tooth decay.
Flossing is as important as brushing because it gets hard to reach places and keeps gums healthy. It is important to floss everyday to remove food and debris that gets trapped between teeth and under gums as well as protect against gum disease. There are a variety of flosses on the market to suit everyone. An easy to use floss is Oral B Satin Floss. A waterpik can also be helpful for anyone with arthritis or dexterity issues. Healthy gums keep our teeth strong and in place. Unhealthy gums swell, get infected and recede. Tooth decay can then attack much higher up onto the root surface of teeth-making them difficult to restore and maybe even leading to having to be removed.
There is a three day rule for those that have not been flossing regularly. For the first three days when you floss you will probably notice some discomfort and bleeding when you start, this sometimes causes people to stop after a day or two. Keep flossing for three days and most will notice a big difference. The discomfort and bleeding will begin to stop and you may even start to enjoy flossing! So don’t be discouraged after a day or two, healthy gums are just around the corner. You will notice your breath is fresher and your mouth will feel healthier for your efforts. If you find it too painful to floss and bleeding doesn’t stop, you may have more severe gum disease and need to visit a dentist to get you back on track. The good news is most gum disease is reversible and before you know it you’ll be flossing at home with healthy gums.
Mouthwash can rinse out missed debris and help a little with plaque and cavities. However, they should never replace brushing or flossing. Mouthwash can give you fresh breath but if you’re using it to fight ongoing bad breath or sore gums you should visit your dentist to see if it is health related. Sometimes your dentist will prescribe you a medicated mouth wash. This should be taken as prescribed and falls into a category of its own.
Chewing a sugarless gum with a natural sweetener like xylitol that fights tooth decay can also be a great way to help between brushing. It promotes cavity fighting saliva and helps to remove food particles after eating. If your chewing gum to relive dry mouth or deal with chronic bad breath, you should have things checked out to make sure it’s not something more serious.
Spending a little time visiting your dentist and having a professional cleaning twice a year is one of the best ways to keep your mouth healthy and prevent issues in the first place. A dentist will monitor and examine the health of your mouth and make sure those areas you might be missing are taken good care of. Just visiting the dentist when something hurts is a losing battle both financially and for your peace of mind. Small cavities just forming can sometimes be reversed without drilling and when gum disease is addressed early, it’s an easy fix.
Taking good care of your teeth is as easy as getting dressed in the morning and washing your face. That’s a pretty good trade for something as functional and important as your teeth. They help us eat, allow us to speak and let the world know when we are happy and joyous. It is for this reason I wanted to remind you this New Year the importance of routine. We want to see you show off your joy and happiness this New Year and many more years to come!
Happy New Years!
White Smiles of Boca
200 W. Palmetto Park Rd., Ste 103