No matter where you stand in the debate about improving our healthcare system, you’re bound to have heard about one of today’s hottest topics: prevention. The goal of preventing disease has become a prime focus of individuals, groups and even government agencies. But in dentistry, the value of prevention has been recognized for a long time. Dentists understand that tooth decay and gum disease—the two biggest oral health problems we face—are (with a little effort) almost entirely preventable. That’s why we brush our teeth, watch what we eat… and visit our dentist regularly. How many other ways can you think of to promote good oral health? Here are some tips that can help.
Eat a Nutritious, Well-Balanced Diet
You probably already know that a balanced diet containing plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and not too much fat, preservatives or fillers, is good for your whole body. So it’s no surprise that eating healthy, unprocessed foods (without added ingredients like sugar) is good for your oral health as well. In addition to eating good food, it’s vital that you drink enough water. Staying well-hydrated not only benefits your body’s tissues and organs—it also enables your mouth to produce enough saliva, which helps fight against tooth decay.
Steer Clear of Sugar and Acids
Sugar in your diet feeds harmful oral bacteria; bacteria metabolize sugar and release acids; acids erode your tooth enamel and produce cavities. In a nutshell, that’s how tooth decay occurs. Take away sugar and you’ll have a head start against cavities. Same thing with acids, which are found in high amounts in soft drinks (even diet sodas), citrus fruit drinks, and so-called “sports” or “energy” drinks. But if you do allow any sugary treats, at least limit them to mealtimes; that way, your saliva will have some time in between to start neutralizing the acid.
Avoid Unhealthy Habits
Need another reason to give up using tobacco and reduce your intake of alcohol? Besides being factors in many other diseases, both increase your chance of developing cancers of the mouth. Oral cancer can also be caused by a virus that is sexually transmitted…so it’s wise to practice safer sex. Oral piercings may be trendy—but they can result in chipped teeth, oral infections, and gum disease. And not wearing a mouthguard when you play sports should definitely be called a foul.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Yes, this means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and flossing once a day. It also means changing your toothbrush when needed—at least once every three months, or when the bristles begin to get stiff. And by the way: How’s your brushing and flossing technique? Are you brushing too hard? Not reaching everywhere you should? Ask your dentist or oral hygienist if you need to “brush up” on this important skill. Which brings us to the last point:
See Your Dentist Regularly
Not only will you have a thorough exam and a professional cleaning that will leave your mouth feeling fresh and sparkly-clean… your dentist will also note whether anything has changed since your last visit, and you’ll get a chance to discuss any questions or issues you may have about your own unique situation. Maintaining good oral health is a team effort—so don’t wait until you have a problem! Be sure to keep up with your routine dental checkups.