When we think of health, it’s easy to focus on maintaining physical fitness and eating a healthy, nutritious diet. But that’s not the full picture. Oral hygiene is a significant factor in our overall health, and poor habits will lead to larger health problems down the road. That’s why it’s important to establish daily hygiene habits and schedule routine dental exams for the whole family.
Oral Health and Total Body Health
According to the CDC, cavities are among the most common chronic condition in the United States. Tooth decay causes pain, missed work, self-esteem issues, and steep co-pays. Oral diseases are linked to other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Over time, poor oral hygiene is also associated with an increased risk of nasopharyngeal and esophageal carcinomas.
Health risks are highest in people with compromised immune systems from HIV, autoimmune conditions, or long-term steroid use. Bacteria are the underlying cause of tooth decay, so they naturally have a stronger incidence in people without a strong immune system to defend against them.
Good Habits Start Early
Studies have shown that poor habits in a child’s first two years of life lead to long-term tooth decay. Parents should model good oral habits for children in those critical early years to make those habits easy to maintain and to prevent problems later on.
Dental pain caused by poor oral health can also mean trouble concentrating in school. A healthy mouth means improved performance and possibly better grades for school-aged children.
Diet and Oral Health
In addition to oral hygiene, a healthy diet is essential to a healthy mouth. Help your child make good choices for their teeth and gums by choosing water over sugary sodas and juices and limiting the number of sweets or candy they eat between meals. According to the ADA, between-meal snacks and treats are more likely to cause cavities. Plaque and sugar work together to erode a tooth’s protective enamel coating. Healthy fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, on the other hand, can help prevent decay. A balanced, nutritious diet leads to stronger teeth and gums that are better able to resist infection.
Practice Preventive Care
Daily brushing and flossing is essential for preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Make sure you’re using the right techniques to get the benefits of these habits. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth twice a day.
- Brush with short, back-and-forth strokes with the brush held at a 45-degree angle to the gums
- Cover all surfaces of each tooth: front, back, and top
- Brush for 2 full minutes
Floss each time you brush your teeth. Brushing alone cannot remove all bacteria, plaque, and food particles from your mouth. Only flossing can reach the areas in between your teeth to ensure a thorough cleaning.
- Use a clean length of floss for each tooth. Reusing a dirty section of floss could re-introduce bacteria in your mouth
- Gently guide the floss between each tooth. Don’t use rough motions or you may irritate your gums and cause bleeding
- Floss under the gum line in each direction, curving around the tooth and the gum
- Floss behind the last tooth on each side
Only use ADA-approved dental floss or water picks to clean between your teeth. It’s tempting to use toothpicks or fingernails to remove food particles, but that can cause irritation, bleeding, and possibly infection.
How We Can Help
We provide individualized treatment and preventive care for the whole family. Our team will help you achieve and maintain good oral hygiene and healthy habits, as well as all your dental, orthodontic, and oral surgery needs. Contact us to book an appointment today.