Importance of Oral Health
Brush your teeth before bed. Many people find themselves busy throughout the day and end up only brushing once a day. At a minimum, you should be brushing twice a day, with the most crucial time to brush being before bed. This ensures all the food accumulated during the day is removed. When we sleep, our mouths dry out from a combination of the body naturally decreasing the amount of saliva production, and mouth breathing / snoring. When this happens, the protective effects of saliva are minimized and bacteria normally found in the mouth proliferate and feed off of the day’s food. The more bacteria growing during the night, the more acid they produce, which is what breaks down enamel and leads to cavities.
By simply investing a few extra minutes a day to brushing before bed, you can make a significant impact on the time spent needing fillings. And don’t forget to change your tooth brush every 3 months or when the bristles appear flattened or splayed!
Quit tobacco. Quitting smoking will have the biggest effect on improving your oral health, and it can be seen almost immediately (not to mention the other health benefits for your lungs, heart, skin, and sexual performance). But cigarette smoking isn’t the only form of tobacco consumption that damages your mouth and body. Chewing tobacco, vaping, and anything else that releases nicotine does also. Aside from the highly damaging chemicals that are produced when tobacco is burned as with smoking, the released nicotine directly effects the gum tissue’s ability to fight off infection and heal from injury. It causes blood vessels to constrict and decreases blood flow to the gums (along with other body parts that depend on blood flow). When this happens, nutrients and protective cells can’t get to areas of injury to heal or to fight off bacteria. This is why bone loss and periodontal disease are associated with tobacco use. And once bone is lost around teeth, there is no way to re-grow it. So the sooner you put down the tobacco, the closer you’ll be to saving your teeth!
Floss. Lately there has been a lot of controversy over flossing and whether or not it helps with good oral health. Well, for those who hate flossing and were happy to hear some say it didn’t help, sorry to say that flossing does help. Can it remove plaque from every surface on a tooth? No, but then again the only way to do that is with surgery. But suffice it to say that the act of flossing breaks up impacted food between teeth which bacteria feed on, so the more that’s removed, the better, even if you can’t remove every last morsel.
Incorporate a mouthwash. The role of a mouthwash is to disrupt the bacterial growth on the teeth and tongue as it washes away food from between teeth. A common question is: “What’s the best mouth rinse to use?”. Fortunately, most mouthwashes available at your nearest drug store work pretty well and most are based on alcohol as their main active ingredient. One thing to consider is that if used multiple times a day, an alcohol based mouthwash can dry out the mouth and sometimes irritate the gums. However, if used once a day, you should be alright. Other options include simple table salt mixed with warm water. The best part of this is it’s easily made at home, and all natural. The salt water works well disrupting the bacteria in the mouth and isn’t as hard on the gums as an alcohol based rinse. Lastly, there are prescription mouthwashes that you get from the dental office. These are often prescribed when moderate to severe periodontal disease is present, or after having oral surgery.
Use fluoridated tooth paste. There has been recent concern about fluoride and whether or not it is harmful. Indeed when you ingest large amounts of fluoride (and large amounts of anything for that matter, not just fluoride, this can be harmful to the body. But when you use fluoridated toothpaste, you’re not eating it, you’re applying it topically to the teeth. And any residual amounts that are ingested after brushing are minimal, and no more than what you would receive from eating foods that naturally contain fluoride. Fluoride’s benefit is that it makes the enamel stronger, more resistant to the damaging effects of acid produced by oral bacteria, and even acids from the foods we eat. Fluoride can also help stop cavities from getting bigger. It’s not a silver bullet and doesn’t make them go away, but if a cavity has just started and is only on the surface on the enamel, then exposure to fluoride may be able to mineralize the area of decay and prevent it for growing bigger and eventually needing a cavity.