What exactly does good oral health mean and why does it matter?
When you hear the phrase oral health, you might immediately think of brushing your teeth, but good dental hygiene goes much deeper than just that one action. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that more than half of the adults in this country have periodontal disease. In other words, half of Americans are failing to take those extra steps that keep their gums healthy, too. What exactly does good oral health mean and why does it matter?
The Steps of Good Oral Hygiene
You can break down effective oral hygiene into four steps:
- Brushing and flossing
- Lifestyle Choices to Fight Plaque
- Dental Checkups
Perfecting these individual tasks is your best chance of keeping your teeth for a lifetime.
The importance of comprehensive oral care goes beyond just having teeth, though. Healthy teeth and gums help reduce your risk of heart disease, mean fewer complications from diabetes and improve the odds of women having healthier babies. Medical professionals call this the mouth-body connection.
Brushing and Flossing
Brushing and flossing are your first line of defense against dental disease. The technique is an essential part of getting the most from your morning and evening brushing, too.
Here are some tips to help you get it right:
- Brush twice a day, preferably after breakfast and before bed.
- Load a pearl size drop of fluoride toothpaste on the brush.
- Hold the brush at an angle at the gum line and move from tooth to tooth.
- Brush the inside and chewing surfaces of each tooth.
- Brush behind the front teeth using the tip of the toothbrush.
When done correctly, brushing should take you at least two minutes.
Make sure to floss each day, as well, moving the dental floss up around the inside edges of each tooth while pulling away from the gum.
The food you choose for yourself and your family also makes a difference. Dental plaque is a film that builds up on teeth as you eat, and the primary cause of tooth decay. The bacteria in the plaque produce acid while breaking down sugars from food. That acid is what wears down the enamel on teeth and causes problems like gingivitis and periodontitis.
Here are some choices you can make to lower the acid production in your mouth:
- Brush twice a day, after breakfast and before bed.
- When choosing snack foods, stay away from artificial sugars like candy or processed carbohydrates like chips. Instead, make a healthier choice like a piece of fruit.
- Limit the number of times you snack each day.
- Finish your snack in one sitting. Don’t draw it out. Bacteria will continue to produce acid for about 20 minutes after you eat. If you eat your one snack twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, that 20 minutes becomes 80.
- Limit the number of sweets a baby gets to prevent early cavities.
Eating healthier is the right thing for your whole body, not just your teeth.
Fluoride helps fight cavities by strengthening the enamel so the acids from dental plaque will have trouble wearing it down. You get fluoride from many sources including your toothpaste.
Children also benefit from a fluoride treatment when parents make an appointment with the dentist.
See the Dentist
Visits to the dentist should start at a young age, preferably before the first birthday. From there on out, every six months like clockwork, see the dentist for a check-up, cleaning and even advanced treatment options like dental sealants or gum therapies.
You get one set of permanent teeth, the question is how long will yours last? With proper dental care, those teeth can be with you all your life.