You already know this, but many people love your smile. They depend on it to brighten their day. And don’t forget how much your smile matters to your well-being, as well. Strong and healthy teeth allow each of us to live our best lives free from pain and discomfort.
So good oral hygiene is essential, but what does it take to get there? Is it just about brushing twice a day and flossing? Well, yes and no. There are many things to keep in mind when caring for our teeth – and what we need to do can sometimes be complicated.
To help clarify, here are the answers to five common questions about dental care that you may have.
What’s the connection between our dental health and overall health?
CCI Health & Wellness Services’ Gaithersburg Dental Director Dr. Nathanial Jackson often reminds his patients that the mouth paints a picture of the body’s health. In other words, our dental health can sometimes determine or influence other aspects of our health.
For example, periodontal disease is a gum infection. The infection can eat away the bone around the teeth. If untreated, the teeth could entirely fall out. And to make matters worse, periodontal disease can significantly affect our hearts. People living with diabetes are especially susceptible to further health issues stemming from periodontal disease.
It sometimes comes down to our perspectives, as well. If we are willing to care for our teeth, we will be more likely to care for ourselves. Proper oral hygiene empowers us to live long and healthy lives.
How do we know if our teeth are healthy?
The best way to know if your teeth are healthy is by scheduling a dental cleaning with your dentist’s office. They’ll provide you with a full opinion and any guidance you may need. But there are also a few key signs that you may want to look out for when assessing your dental health.
First, when you brush and floss, do you find any bleeding? If so, you’re likely dealing with a case of gingivitis. Gingivitis happens when too much plaque builds on the teeth. Plaque, which is bacteria, causes inflammation in the gums, which leads to bleeding. To prevent the disease, be sure to brush and floss regularly.
Another way to check your dental health is to look for calculus on your teeth. Calculus, also known as tartar, results when plaque is brushed away irregularly and hardens on the teeth. To spot calculus, look for a brown shade on your teeth. Brushing can easily remove plaque, but calculus requires professional dental cleaning.
If you don’t see blood when you brush and can’t find calculus on your teeth, you’re more than likely in good shape. However, only your dentist will know for sure! Schedule an appointment for a clearer picture of your dental health.
What can we do to avoid tooth decay and cavities?
Oral hygiene is a lifelong effort that depends on creating and sticking to healthy habits. Brushing and flossing is the top line of defense against teeth issues every day, though supplemental activities can also help.
Mouthwash can be useful in preventing common teeth issues. We recommend purchasing a mouthwash brand that contains 0% alcohol. Alcohol can cause dry mouth, increasing the risk of gingivitis and tooth decay.
Brushing after every meal is an excellent practice, but that doesn’t mean it’s always practical. For the times when you can’t reach for a toothbrush, you may want to reach for a piece of sugar-free gum instead. Gum helps stimulate saliva, effectively removing the acid that comes from the foods and drinks we consume. But make sure that the gum is sugar-free!
Below are more tips for maintaining a healthy mouth:
- Drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, consider quitting.
- If you have diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. Controlling your diabetes will decrease the risk for other complications, including gum disease.
What role does sugar play in dental health?
Many people have a sweet tooth and find it impossible to say no to a piece of candy or cookie – and that’s OK! But moderation is key, and if we overeat sugar without brushing regularly, we will find ourselves with a mouth filled with cavities.
If you want to continue enjoying sweets without guilt or worry, you will want to make sure that you always brush after eating. But try not to brush too soon after eating sugar because the brushing movement could incorporate the sugar into the tooth. As a general rule, it’s best to wait at least half an hour after eating before you brush – doing so will help dissipate some of the sugar left behind in your mouth.
What do we need to look for in a toothbrush?
Toothbrushes come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors – the options are endless! You may be wondering which is right for you. The best toothbrush is the one that compliments your style while providing the greatest protection against cavities and plaque.
First, the age-old question: hard, medium, or soft bristles? Everyone has their preference, but for dentists, there’s a clear winner. Soft bristles remove plaque without damaging the enamel, the outer layer that protects your teeth. Medium and hard bristles remove plaque but damage enamel in the process. Remember: the stiffer the bristle, the more enamel is removed, and ultimately, the more sensitive your teeth will become.
What about electronic toothbrushes? Are they more effective in removing plaque and cleaning teeth? Not necessarily. They’re best suited for individuals who physically struggle to brush. However, if misused, electronic toothbrushes can cause damage, primarily when used near the gumline.
In summary, don’t feel you need to buy a fancy toothbrush – keep it simple with soft bristles!
CCI Health & Wellness Services offers dental services at three locations in Maryland – Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, and Greenbelt. We provide dental care, education, and tools to empower you to maintain your smile between visits. Expect to learn more about continuing good oral health and proper brushing and flossing from one of our dental providers. Leave with a toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste to take home after each visit.
And by the way, you don’t need insurance to visit a CCI health center. We provide our services on a sliding scale to fit your situation. Anyone is welcome to make an appointment if you’re in our service area. Give us a call at (866) 877-7258.
Follow the tips above, brush twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist twice a year for cleaning. That’s the formula for good oral hygiene! When you still have your strong and healthy teeth late in life, you’ll be glad you did everything you could to practice good oral hygiene today.
This post summarizes an Ask Me Anything event hosted by CCI Health & Wellness Services with Dr. Nathanial Jackson. Watch the event on Facebook for more information about dental health.