Preventative Measures for Saving Your Teeth: Tips for Maintaining Optimal Oral Health

Smiling woman looking in the mirror and flossing.Healthy teeth and gums are crucial to looking good, feeling good, and enjoying your favorite foods, but did you know oral health has far-reaching effects on your overall health? Insufficient dental care can lead to issues such as cavities and gum disease and has been linked to cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, certain cancers, and diabetes complications. Taking care of your teeth could save your life.

Prioritize Daily Oral Hygiene

The daily care of your teeth, or dentures, is the foundation of optimal oral health. Flossing daily, preferably before brushing your teeth before bed, dislodges food debris and bacteria that collect at the gum line and reaches areas your toothbrush can’t reach. Brushing twice daily is the recommended minimum to keep your teeth clean, breath fresh and control plaque formation.

Regarding the care of your toothbrush, if the bristles are splayed, they should be replaced every three months or earlier. When you are sick, it is a good idea to fully replace your toothbrush (or electric toothbrush head) because it will harbor bacteria and viruses. Although a firmer brush may feel like it’s cleaning better,  it can damage the enamel. Therefore, a soft bristle brush is best for your gums and better for getting between the teeth and along the gum line.

Additional tips for good oral hygiene:

  • Wait about 30 minutes after eating before brushing. Brushing immediately after eating or drinking something acidic could damage the enamel, as acids temporarily soften tooth enamel.
  • Begin brushing in the back of the mouth, as this area is difficult to reach and often neglected.
  • Using an antibacterial mouthwash twice daily can reduce oral cavity bacteria.
  • Wash your toothbrush holder weekly with hot, soapy water. Why? Because the National Sanitation Foundation recently determined that toothbrush holders were the third germiest thing in most homes (Ew.)
  • Rinse your brush under hot water before and after every brushing, then let dry completely between uses when possible.

Be Aware of Your Medications

Certain medications, including antihistamines, diuretics, decongestants, and antidepressants, can cause a dry mouth. If your mouth is dry due to medication, your saliva can’t wash away food particles and neutralize the acids in your mouth. As a result, bacteria can multiply rapidly, leading to tooth decay and infections. When taking medications that give you a dry mouth, try sucking on sugar-free hard candies, chewing sugar-free gum, or using an over-the-counter dental product to stimulate saliva production.

Quit Smoking

Smoking reduces saliva, stains your teeth, and causes tremendous damage to your teeth. It also changes the pH levels in the mouth, raising the risk of infection, tooth decay, and gum disease. Both smoking and smokeless tobacco greatly increase the risk of developing oral cancer, which can be fatal if not treated in its earliest stages.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Having an occasional glass of wine or cocktail is lovely, but if you regularly drink a lot of alcohol, it contributes to dental health issues. Alcohol is high in sugars that convert to acids in the mouth, attacking teeth enamel. Like smoking, excessive alcohol use leads to a dry mouth, a proliferation of bacteria, and the risk of gum disease. If you drink alcohol, always follow it with a glass of water and brush thoroughly as soon as possible.

See Your Dentist Regularly

Your dentist is your ally in protecting your oral health. The American Dental Association recommends dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning every six months for optimal oral health. Professional teeth cleaning removes plaque and tartar and polishes your teeth to a deep clean. At each visit, your dentist checks for cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer.

If you have questions about improving your oral health or have not had a dental checkup cleaning in the last six months, contact your dental office and schedule an appointment.

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