How to keep your teeth and gums healthy for life
Good oral hygiene is necessary to keep teeth and gums healthy. It involves habits such as brushing and flossing twice a day and having regular dental checkups. However, oral health is about more than cavities and gum disease. Research has shown that there is an association between the health of a person's mouth and their overall health.
Without treatment, tooth decay or gum problems can lead to pain, problems with self-confidence, and tooth loss. These issues may lead to malnutrition, speech problems, and other challenges in a person's work, school, or personal life.
You can prevent these problems with proper dental care, both at home and in the dentist's office.
Here are Dr Rachel's 7 tips to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
1. Brush regularly but not aggressively
Brushing twice a day and using dental floss can help keep teeth and gums healthy.
Brushing your teeth twice a day is one of the most important practices for removing plaque and bacteria and keeping teeth clean. However, brushing may only be effective if you use the correct technique.
People should brush using small gentle motions, taking care to brush the front, back, and top of every tooth. This process takes between 2 and 3 minutes. You should avoid sawing back-and-forth motions.
Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can damage tooth enamel and the gums. The effects of this may include tooth sensitivity, permanent damage to the protective enamel on the teeth, and gum erosion.
I recommend using a toothbrush that has soft bristles. You should also change your toothbrush every 3 months or when the ends start to look frayed, whichever comes first.
2. Floss twice a day
Flossing can remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth, where a toothbrush is unable to reach. It can also help prevent bad breath by removing debris and food that has become trapped between the teeth.
Although there is a lack of long-term studies proving that flossing is beneficial, I still recommend it as I can tell the difference between a patient who does and doesn’t floss by the health of their gums.
I recommend gently pushing the floss all the way down to the gumline and under it before hugging the side of the tooth with up-and-down motions. It is important to avoid snapping the floss up and down between the teeth, which can cause pain and will not remove plaque as effectively.
3. See a dentist regularly
A dentist can diagnose and treat oral health issues before they become severe.
Experts recommend that people see a dentist every 6 months for a checkup (and more regular for teeth cleaning and gum care) During a routine dental examination, a hygienist will clean the teeth and remove plaque and hardened tartar.
The dentist will check for visual signs of cavities, gum disease, mouth cancer, and other oral health issues. They may sometimes also use dental X-rays to check for cavities.
How often you need a hygienist visit varies depending on your health history, age, and overall dental health. However, if you notice changes in your mouth you should visit a dentist.
4. Do not smoke
Smoking harms the body's immune system, which makes it difficult for the body to heal tissues, including those in the mouth. Smoking is a risk factor for gum disease and mouth cancer. Smoking also affects the appearance of the mouth, leading to yellowing of the teeth and tongue, and it can give breath a bad odour.
5. Consider a mouthwash
Certain mouthwashes can benefit oral health. Mouthwashes with essential oils are effective at helping reduce bacterial load and inflammation.
A mouthwash cannot substitute brushing and flossing, but it can complement these practices.
6. Limit sugary foods and starches
Consuming sugar can lead to cavities. Studies continue to highlight the significant role that sugar plays in adverse dental health outcomes. Common culprits include sweets and desserts, but many processed foods also contain added sugar.
The WHO recommend that people limit their intake of sugar to below 10 percent of their daily calories.
Starchy foods, such as crackers, bread, chips, and pasta, can cause tooth decay, these foods linger in the mouth and break down into simple sugars, on which acid-producing bacteria feed. This acid can cause tooth decay.
7. Drink water instead of sugary drinks
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in our diets. Sipping on soda, juice, or other sugary drinks can lead to a higher risk of cavities. I recommend drinking water or unsweetened tea.
Practicing good dental care from infancy to adulthood can help a person keep their teeth and gums healthy. Brushing and flossing daily, not smoking, eating a healthful diet, and having regular dental checkups can help people avoid cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues. It may also benefit their overall health.