Dental care is far more than just cavities and gum disease. Research has shown that there are links and associations between our oral health and overall health. Many health experts consider oral health problems to be a global burden on health services and without proper treatment, these issues can lead to larger problems.
Tooth decay and gum problems can lead to issues with self-confidence, pain and even tooth loss. These issues then, in turn, can lead to speech problems, malnutrition and other challenges which may be present in people’s personal lives or even affect work or school.
Practising good oral hygiene is necessary to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Keeping up with dental habits include brushing twice a day and flossing regularly, but what other daily habits can we adopt to keep our teeth and gums healthy?
Brush Regularly (But Gently!)
We all know that brushing our teeth twice a day is one of the most important health practices and when it comes to our oral health, it is highly efficient in removing plaque and bacteria. However, brushing is only effective if you use the right technique.
Ideally, you should brush your teeth using small, circular motions and take care to brush from the front and to the back, as well as the top of every tooth. Generally speaking, this process takes between 2 and 3 minutes. When brushing, avoid using harsh, sawing back and forth motions.
Brushing too hard, or using a hard-bristled brush, can damage tooth enamel and be harsh on gums. The effects of brushing too hard may lead to tooth sensitivity, permanent and irreversible damage to the enamel on the teeth and potentially gum erosion. Some electric toothbrushes have built-in sensors that flash when the brushing pressure is too hard and use soft bristles in order to minimise damage to your teeth, so if you are someone who finds it difficult to use less force when brushing, this could be an option for you.
Flossing helps to remove bacteria and plaque from in between teeth and can get to where toothbrushes are unable to reach. Flossing can also prevent bad breath, as it removes debris and food particles that can become trapped between teeth. Whilst there is a lack of in-depth studies showing the benefits of flossing, flossing is highly recommended by dentists.
Most dentists advise gently pushing the floss down to the gumline, before then hugging the side of the tooth with gentle up and down motions. You should avoid snapping or dragging the floss up and down between teeth as this can cause pain and slight bleeding and is less effective in removing plaque.
If you have braces, such as Invisalign braces, then flossing can be tricky, so instead of using dental floss, you should use interdental brushes that can get into the smaller and harder to reach areas. When using interdental brushes, it’s important that you use a smaller size bristle, especially if you have braces, as this can minimise the risk of damage being caused to the wire or bracket. Most packs of interdental brushes come with a selection of different sizes, so start off with the smaller one until you find one which is comfortable to use and doesn’t cause too much discomfort when using.
Limit Sugary Foods
Regularly consuming sugar can cause cavities and an increased production of plaque. Many studies have shown that sugar plays a huge role when it comes to adverse dental conditions. The most common culprits behind cavities and other dental problems are sweets and desserts, but also processed foods that are high in sugar. It is recommended that our intake of sugar is below 10% of our daily caloric intake and even lowering it to 5% could greatly reduce the risk of cavities and other dental problems.
Experts have also said that starchy foods, such as bread, crisps, pasta and crackers, can lead to tooth decay. Dental experts say that these foods linger in the mouth and then break down into starchy sugars, which acid-producing bacteria feed on. This acid then leads to tooth decay. Instead of starchy foods, try to eat plenty of fibre-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruit, as well as dairy products with little or no added sugar.
Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks
Sugar-sweetened drinks are the biggest source of added sugar in our diets and regularly drinking sugary drinks such as soda, juice or other sugary drinks can lead to a higher risk of cavities. Drinking water also helps to wash away any leftover food particles and residue that cavity-causing germs and bacteria love. These bacteria eat the sugars left behind after meals, snacks and sugary drinks and then produce acid which can cause your enamel to wear away.
Throughout the day, you should try and drink water or unsweetened teas, saving any sugary drinks for mealtimes and consume in small amounts. Drinks with no added sugar are also ok to drink, such as juice cordials and fruit juices.
Drinking water not only has plenty of benefits in terms of oral health, but also your general health and wellbeing, too. It helps to keep your skin and body hydrated, prevent headaches and migraines and provide optimal body function. Even mild dehydration can affect you physically and mentally, so ensuring that you drink enough water each day can protect both your body and oral health.
Visit Your Dentist
It is recommended that you visit your dentist at least every 6-12 months for a checkup. During your checkup, your dentist will likely clean your teeth and remove any plaque buildup or hardened tartar. Your dentist will also check for any visual signs of gum disease, mouth cancer, cavities and other oral health issues. They may also carry out X-Rays to get a better look at the condition of your mouth underneath the surface.
Some oral and general conditions tend to only be picked up by dentists, so it is important that you keep up with your regular checkups and contact your dentist if you notice any problems, such as bleeding gums, sores in your mouth that won’t heal, receding gums or any pain or sensitivity in your gum or teeth. If you are a nervous dental patient, then it is important to remember that dental technology advancements mean that there is now very little pain and discomfort felt during a routine dental checkup. If you have any particular worries or concerns, then speak with your dentist about how this can be resolved.