Did you know that oral health is a good predictor of overall health and well-being? It's true, having gum disease makes you more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or inflammation. Basically, oral health is way more important than most of us think. And this raises the question: Do you know how to best take care of your mouth? If the answer is no, don't worry, here are 12 things that will help you achieve a healthy smile, holistically.
1. Your mouth is full of bacteria—good ones and bad ones.
It's not something we like to think about, but our mouths are full of bacteria—some of which can be harmful to our teeth and overall health. These bad bacteria erode teeth and contribute to periodontal (gum) disease. That being said, a healthy bacteria level in the mouth is all about balance. More than 500 species of bacteria have been detected in the oral cavity (of a healthy mouth!). The "good" bacteria has been shown to be responsible for synthesizing and excreting vitamins, preventing pathogens from entering the body and destroying pathogens. Among this group is: S. sanguinis, S. orals, Actinomyces naeslundii, Neisseria subflava, and Veillonella dispar. "Bad" bacteria (when in high numbers) causes dental decay (Streptococcus mutans) and periodontal disease (Tannerella forsythia, Porphyromonas gingival is, F. nucleatum).
2. Vitamin deficiencies can put your teeth at risk.
Yes. Studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin D during pregnancy leads to enamel hypoplasia in the child. Vitamin deficiencies, particularly deficiencies of B vitamins, folate, and iron, have also been linked to oral ulcers and painful fissures at the corners of the lips.
3. Brushing your teeth is an art.
Which is why brushing your teeth at least twice daily for two minutes is absolutely essential. But don't overdo it or you might damage your gums. Brush gently at a 45-degree angle to effectively remove the bacteria that causes plaque buildup and decay.
4. Oil pulling is great, but it's not an excuse to stop brushing or flossing.
Research has shown that oil pulling, in addition to brushing and flossing, reduces the amount of plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis in the mouth. The oils used—primarily sesame or coconut—are gently swished around the mouth for 10 to 20 minutes once per day. These oils deliver vitamins and lauric acid (which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects), while "pulling" bad bacteria from the mouth. Although research has shown that oil pulling decreases the amount of plaque in the mouth, it has not yet been proven to prevent or eliminate dental caries, gingivitis, or periodontal disease. Therefore, it should be used as an add-on to brushing, flossing, and the use of products prescribed or recommend by your dentist.
5. Your dentist can detect issues early.
This might seem overly obvious, but the best way to prevent dental pain is to visit your dentist. Many dental issues are not painful initially, so when you visit your dentist he or she can detect any minor issues before they turn into major ones. Your dentist can fill a small cavity, for example, before it has the chance to get infected and cause a painful tooth abscess.
6. Change your toothbrush every three months.
Over time, your toothbrush starts to lose its effectiveness. The bristles become frayed and do not work as well as they once did, and the bad bacteria that lives in your mouth builds up on your toothbrush. If you have gum disease, you need to change your toothbrush more often—every four to six weeks. If you've been sick, it's especially important to change your toothbrush afterward to get rid of any germs.
7. Bleeding gums are usually not "normal."
Bleeding gums can be the result of several factors. You might be using a toothbrush with hard bristles and brushing too vigorously. Bleeding gums may also signal an improper flossing technique. At worst, bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease. Regardless of the cause, if your gums are bleeding be sure to ask your dentist about it!
8. There's more to that regular dental visit than cleaning.
Your dentist isn't there just to clean your teeth and give you a brighter smile. During your regular dental visit, he or she will also check your mouth for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. These issues are much easier to treat if found early.
9. Your dentist is here to help you, not judge you.
Some people do not visit the dentist because they are embarrassed about their teeth or an issue with their mouth. Don't worry—your dentist has been highly trained in treating a variety of issues and will be able to talk through any concerns you may have and discuss the appropriate treatment options.
10. A healthy diet helps your mouth.
Prevention of gum disease is multifaceted. In addition to brushing and flossing, a healthy diet is essential. A diet low in essential nutrients negatively affects the body's immune system, making it harder to fight infection. Since periodontal (gum) disease is initially an infection, poor nutrition limits the body's ability to fight it.
11. Flossing isn't optional.
If you're not flossing regularly, you really should be (and your dentist can tell if you aren't). Flossing removes food debris and bacteria that gets stuck between teeth. Be sure to check with your dentist to make sure you're flossing correctly!
12. Keep an eye out for oral probiotics.
Probiotics are most known for aiding in gastrointestinal health. Not until recently has research aimed its focus at probiotics for the oral cavity. Results show that probiotics can help with reducing dental plaque, gum disease, and bad breath. They may even help with the prevention of oral cancer. Stay tuned!
With these 12 things in mind, be sure to make and keep your regular dental appointments so you can take control of your dental and overall health. Every patient is different, so your dentist will work with you to address your individual needs and ensure you have the healthiest smile possible!