Healthy Dental Habits

Preserving your natural teeth and avoiding dentures is a goal worth pursuing. Heightened awareness of the care of both your teeth and the rest of your mouth should be a part of your general routine throughout your life. It is therefore vitally important to develop and maintain beneficial dental habits to ensure the longevity of your teeth. Here are some tips to help you and your family maintain healthy teeth and prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in the earth. It helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening the permanent teeth as they develop. It also fortifies teeth externally by remineralizing the tooth enamel. Dentists usually advise that children begin receiving daily fluoride treatments from their first birthday until their sixteenth year.

Much of the progress that has been made in reducing tooth cavities in children can be attributed to the use of fluoride. Fluoride can be obtained by swallowing small amounts, which is absorbed into the body, or by direct application to the teeth. Kids cavity rates for example are now at an unprecedented low level because of the introduction of fluoride into city drinking water. Some bottled water also contains fluoride. Read bottled water labels carefully to ensure that they contain the level of fluoride recommended by the American Dental Association.

Another source of fluoride is a topical gel that can be applied in the dental office or at home. Dentists can also prescribe fluoride tablets or drops. Fluoride toothpaste is available over-the-counter and can be used by even very young children under supervision. A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is all that is needed. Fluoride mouth rinses are also available. However, children who have not learned to spit out instead of swallowing should not use rinses. Fluoride overdose can cause a condition called enamel fluorosis. Therefore, it is important to seek professional dental advice when considering fluoride supplementation.

Snacks

Your teeth are extremely sensitive to sticky, sugary products. This is especially detrimental when these foods are eaten in-between meals as a snack. Food particles gather on your teeth and combine with bacteria to form the gummy substance dentists refer to as plaque. Over a period of time plaque hardens and the acids produced attack your teeth, destroy the enamel, and creates cavities. At first, there is little or no pain but the cavities are growing silently. It is therefore important to eat a well-balanced diet and choose snacks wisely. Resist the temptation to eat candy, cookies etc. Instead choose veggie sticks, crackers, and nuts. Ideally, it would be best to refrain from eating snacks at all.

Sodas are also harmful to your teeth. They are extremely abrasive and should not be consumed in-between meals. Drink pure water instead. Eat nothing and drink only water after your last meal of the day. Young children should never be put to bed with a bottle of syrupy drink, juice, or milk, as this will coat the teeth with sugar while the child sleeps.

Brushing

Make brushing fun instead of a chore. Experiment with different flavors of toothpaste, different styles of toothbrush designs, etc. This is especially important for young children.

Brush your teeth at least twice daily. Always use a soft toothbrush for thorough but gentle cleansing. Apply a small amount of toothpaste and brush the outside of the front teeth first- in a back-and-forth motion. Next, brush the outside back teeth and inside back teeth. Hold the brush flat to gently scrub the chewing surfaces of the teeth. You should also clean the tongue and palate with a soft brush. After brushing, rinse your mouth and toothbrush thoroughly under running tap water. Remember going through the brushing motions is what effectively removes plaque build-up.

Flossing

Flossing removes plaque and food particles that are lodged between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing begins in childhood when primary teeth arrive and continues on throughout adulthood. Kids usually need help with flossing until they are ten years old. Floss is available in many varieties, i.e. flavored, unflavored, waxed, unwaxed, and taped floss. To properly floss your teeth you will need an eighteen-inch length of floss. Wrap the floss lightly around your middle fingers; grasp the floss with your index fingers. Then gently slide the floss up and down between each tooth and the gum line. Dental floss holders are also available for people with limited dexterity.

Sealants

Dental sealants are plastic, professionally applied material that is put on the chewing surfaces of back teeth to prevent tooth decay. Sealants provide a physical barrier to prevent cavity-producing bacteria from eroding the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth. Dentists usually recommend sealants when the first permanent molars appear in childhood. Adults can also benefit from sealants if they are at a high risk of tooth decay. Consult your dentist for advice.

Dental Check-ups

You should schedule two yearly visits to your dentist. Some people might need more than two visits depending on their oral disease risk, age, or other factors.
A complete dental exam includes a visual inspection and finger exploration of the tongue, a check under the tongue, roof of the mouth, salivary glands, insides of the cheek and the back of the throat. The face, head, neck and lymph nodes are also inspected for any sign of gland enlargement or any other abnormalities. The gum is usually examined for disease and all tooth surfaces are checked for decay and growth malformation. X-rays may also be recommended to determine the presence of disease that cannot be seen with a visual examination.

Developing and maintaining healthy dental habits combined with regular visits to the dentist will ensure that your natural teeth last as long as you live.

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