10 Ways to Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy for Life
Besides their bright, shiny smiles, there are some other great reasons to make sure that your family’s teeth and gums stay healthy, such as good oral health is connected to good overall health, less toothaches or cavities and less money spent on damaged teeth.
Here are some tips to keep your teeth healthy, strong and looking good from childhood onwards.
- Start Early to Prevent Tooth Decay – Before they even start school, roughly 25 percent of children develop signs of tooth decay. And 50% of all kids between 12 and 15 have cavities. Starting on your kid’s dental hygiene should begin as soon as their first teeth appear, generally around six to 9 months. One tip – wipe their teeth with a damp cloth or with a very soft baby tooth brush. Once kids turn two, let them start brushing their own teeth, with a little parental supervision. Flossing should begin when your child has 2 teeth that are touching, normally at around 3. While kids should be able to brush their teeth independently by 6, they still will probably still need assistance with flossing until they’re about 8 to 10 years old. As children get older be sure to schedule routine dental examinations for them.
Tip: Give your child a sneak preview – take them with you for your next dental check up to see you having your teeth examined or cleaned.
- Seal off Tooth Decay with Sealants – They’re not just for kids. Who wants to deal with cavities? Nobody, yet almost 95% of adults have them. Sealants can not only help protect your children’s teeth from cavities, they can also be helpful for adults. Our permanent molars (the back teeth) come in around age 6. Because these molars have more grooves and hard-to-reach nooks, they are often more prone to cavities, as food can get stuck in these pits and remain longer since the toothbrush bristles cannot always brush the food residue away. That’s where dental sealants can help. Sealants are made of a special plastic that is painted on to the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars to seal out bacteria and decay that could eat away at the tooth’s enamel. If you think you might benefit from sealants, ask us during your next visit or please schedule an appointment.
- Use Enough Fluoride – Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making our teeth more resistant to the acids formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in our mouths that can promote tooth decay. Fluoride is found in tooth paste, mouth washes, water and in many of our foods, including dairy products and meats. While it should be used sparingly for very young children, additional fluoride treatments can benefit kids, whose permanent teeth have not yet developed, as well as adults with gum disease, dry mouth conditions, or who snack a lot. Dental fluoride treatments are offered in various forms, such as varnishes, gels or rinses. Ask us if you could benefit from periodic fluoride treatments.
- Daily Dental Hygiene & Teeth Cleanings – While it may seem obvious to brush and floss on a daily basis, it’s easy for many of us to develop bad dental habits and let our dental hygiene lapse. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily can help with tooth decay and gum disease, the two culprits that remain problematic for both adults, as well as teenagers. In fact, many teens suffer from bleeding gums, which can be attributed to Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Besides daily brushing and flossing, routine teeth cleaning is recommended with a dental hygienist to help remove plaque buildup. Having your teeth professionally cleaned every 6-12 months will reduce the likelihood of gum disease progressing, as well as help prevent tooth decay – cavities.
- Sports Mouth Guards –Keep your teeth in your mouth and not on the playing field. Every year about 5 million teeth get knocked out at youth sporting activities (kids, tweens, teens and college age athletes). This doesn’t even include the oral dental injuries that occur from unsupervised recreational activities like skate-boarding, biking or rollerblading. And these injuries aren’t just limited to kids, but also to adults, who can sustain sports related tooth injuries, as well –from pick-up basketball games (flying elbows!) to ultimate frisbee. Compared to the financial costs of losing a tooth, not to mention the possible long-term health issues, a custom-fitted mouthguard provides peace of mind, not to mention great insurance. These mouth guards are custom designed for people of all ages, different types of sports and competition levels. Ask us about the types of custom sports mouth guards we offer, like PlaySafe.
- Maintain Good Nutrition – What you put in your mouth affects the health of your teeth and gums. Choosing the right foods early in life can be especially beneficial throughout your whole life. Your mouth is full of germs and bacteria (plaque) that thrive on the starches and sugars produced that are found in the food you eat. When you don’t remove the plaque an acid is produced that attacks your enamel and eventually causes decay. Choosing foods that are low in sugar and starches will reduce the acids produced. Not all foods are equal. Some foods and beverages are actually better for your teeth than others.
- Get a Night Guard – Do you often wake up with a sore jaw, a headache or tooth pain? You may be suffering from a bruxism, which is a dental condition of teeth grinding, or clenching that usually occurs usually at night when you sleep. Long term clenching or grinding of the teeth can lead to chipped and cracked teeth, not to mention severe strains to the jaw bones, such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint problems). Custom made night guards can reduce the amount of pressure exerted on your jaws, as well provide a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth.
- Rinse or Chew Gum After Meals – Need an excuse to chew gum? Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can actually help prevent tooth decay. Chewing gum increases more saliva flow that helps to neutralize acids within your mouth and wash bacteria away – those culprits that can promote tooth decay. Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial rinse can also help prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Patients who are more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay may benefit from cavity prevention oral rinses that can be prescribed.
- Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices – Are you a serial snacker? Snacks usually consist of carbohydrates and sugars (fruit, sugared coffee, sodas, juice, cookies and chips). The more carbs and sugars that enter your mouth, the more acids and bacteria that builds up, leading to more opportunities for cavities. Try to limit your snacks throughout the day. And if you can’t, be mindful of to incorporate some of the steps on this page (carry a toothbrush with you, rinse, etc) to help you fight back against possible tooth decay.
And do you smoke? Quit. Smoking reduces the blood flow to your mouth that can increase your risk for developing gum disease and oral cancer. It can also stain your teeth. If you simply can’t quit smoking, you may consider adding an annual oral cancer screening as part of your annual dental examination.
- Schedule Regular Dental Examinations – Scheduling your dental examinations and teeth cleanings every 6 months can help prevent dental problems from occurring and also spot possible oral health problems early. During these visits, our dental team will clean your teeth, removing any built up plaque, and also look for possible tooth decay. These regular examinations can also help to detect early signs or oral cancer, signs of gum disease and tooth grinding.
A lot of tooth decay problems and gum disease issues can be prevented with good oral hygiene. Taking some time to be mindful of these tips can provide a big return when it comes to keeping your teeth, and your family’s teeth, healthy for a lifetime.