Brushing and flossing are vital to dental health; however, there are other steps to take to keep your teeth for a lifetime. Some people assume they will lose their teeth as they age, but that doesn't have to happen. Below are suggestions from the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine to help keep your teeth and mouth healthy:
Eight Steps to Dental Health, from www.simplestepsdental.com:
1. Understand your own oral health needs.
Oral health depends upon many factors, including what you eat, the type and amount of saliva in your mouth, habits, overall health and oral hygiene routine. Changes in your overall health status often result in changes in your oral health. More than 300 common drugs can have the side effect of a dry mouth for patients, which can cause increased plaque formation and gingivitis. Pregnant women go through oral changes, often including gum inflammation. Asthmatic patients often breathe through their mouths, particularly when sleeping. This can result in dry mouth and increased oral risks.
2. Commit to a daily oral health routine.
Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your oral health practices. Based on the discussion, come up with an effective routine. It should be easy to follow and should take your situation into account. For example, if you are taking medicine that dries your mouth, you may want to use fluoride every day. Pregnant women, people with health conditions such as diabetes, and people with braces also may want or need special daily care.
3. Use fluoride products.
Everyone can benefit from fluoride, not just children. Toothpastes and mouthwashes are good sources of fluoride. Your dentist can prescribe stronger concentration of fluoride in a gel, toothpaste or rinse if you need it.
4. Brush and floss to remove plaque.
Everyone should brush at least twice a day. It's even better to brush three times a day or after every meal. In addition, you should floss at least once a day. It's important to brush and floss correctly and thoroughly. You need to remove plaque from all sides of the tooth and where the tooth meets the gums. If plaque is not removed, it can lead to gum problems and cavities.
5. Limit snacks, particularly those high in simple sugars, and eat a balanced diet.
Each time you eat food containing sugars or starches, your teeth are exposed to acids produced by bacteria in plaque for 20 minutes or more. If you must snack, brush your teeth or chew sugarless gum afterward. A balanced diet is also important. Not getting enough minerals and vitamins can affect your oral health, as well as your general health.
6. If you use tobacco in any form, quit.
Smoking or using smokeless tobacco increases your risk of oral cancer, gingivitis, periodontitis.
7. Examine your mouth regularly.
Even if you visit your dentist regularly, you are in the best position to notice changes in your mouth. Your dentist and dental hygienist see you only a few times a year, but you can examine your mouth weekly to look for changes that might be of concern. These changes could include: swollen gums, chipped teeth, discolored teeth, and sores or lesions on your gums, cheeks or tongue. A regular exam is particularly important for tobacco users, who are at increased risk of developing oral cancer. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco, your dentist or dental hygienist can show you where a sore, spot, patch or lump is most likely to appear.
8. Visit the dental office regularly.
Talk to your dentist about how often you should visit. If you have a history of cavities or crown and bridge work, or are wearing braces, or have a long-term health condition, you may need to visit the dentist more often.
Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the Wellness Committee