Steps to Dental Health
It takes more than just brushing
Okay, so you know about brushing
and flossing. But there are other
steps you should take if you want
to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Some people assume they will lose
their teeth as they age, but that
doesn't have to happen. Joan Gluch,
Ph.D., director of community health
at the University of Pennsylvania
School of Dental Medicine, suggests
these steps to keep your teeth and
your mouth healthy.
Understand your own oral-health
"Everyone's mouth is different,"
Gluch says. "Talk to your dentist
or dental hygienist about special
conditions in your mouth and the
ways your general health affects
Changes in your health status should
lead you to your dental office.
"For example, pregnant women
will have special oral health needs,"
she explains. "Or, if you start
taking a new medication that can
dry your mouth [as more than 300
common drugs do], you should ask
your dentist or dental hygienist
about how that will affect your
Commit to a daily oral-health routine
Based on discussions with your dentist
or dental hygienist, come up with
an effective oral-health routine
that's easy to follow and takes
your situation into account. For
example, if you are taking medication
that dries your mouth, you may want
to use fluoride every day. Pregnant
women, people with underlying health
conditions, such as diabetes, and
people in orthodontic treatment
also may want or need special daily
Everyone can benefit from fluoride,
not just children. Fluoride strengthens
developing teeth in children and
helps prevent decay in adults and
children. Toothpastes and mouthwashes
are good sources of fluoride. Your
dentist can prescribe stronger concentrations
of fluoride through gels or rinses
if you need it.
Brush and floss to remove plaque
Everyone should brush and floss
at least once a day, preferably
twice or after every meal. These
activities remove plaque, which
is a complex mass of bacteria that
constantly forms on your teeth.
If plaque isn't removed every day,
it can combine with sugars to form
acids that lead to decay. Bacterial
plaque also causes gingivitis and
other periodontal diseases. It's
important to brush and floss correctly
and thoroughly. Otherwise, some
plaque may remain.
Limit snacks, particularly those
high in simple sugars, and eat a
Every time you eat, particles of
food become lodged in and around
your teeth, providing fuel for bacteria.
The more often you eat and the longer
food stays in your mouth, the more
time bacteria have to break down
sugars and produce acids that begin
the decay process. Each time you
eat food containing sugars or starches
(complex sugars), your teeth are
exposed to bacterial acids for 20
minutes or more. If you must snack,
brush your teeth or chew sugarless
A balanced diet is also important.
Deficiencies in minerals and vitamins
can also affect your oral health,
as well as your general health.
If you use tobacco in any form,
Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
increases your risk for oral cancer,
gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth
decay. It also contributes to bad
breath and stains on your teeth."
Examine your mouth regularly
Even if you visit your dentist regularly,
you are in the best position to
notice changes in your mouth. Your
dentist sees you only a few times
a year, but you can examine your
mouth weekly to look for changes
that might be of concern. These
changes could include swollen gums,
chipped teeth, discolored teeth
or sores or lesions on your gums,
cheeks or tongue. A regular examination
is particularly important for tobacco
users, who are at increased risk
of developing oral cancer. If you
smoke or use smokeless tobacco,
your dentist or dental hygienist
can show you where lesions are most
likely to appear.
Visit the dental office regularly
You and your dentist should talk
about the frequency of your visits.
Some people need to visit their
dentist more frequently than others.
you require any more information
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