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Taking good care of your teeth is crucial for more than just flashing your pearly whites.
Dental health directly impacts your overall health and wellness. Poor dental hygiene can lead to a host of issues, including cavities and tooth decay. Gingivitis can set in. This form of gum disease causes reddish, swollen gums and can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
Poor oral health can affect the rest of your body, too. The bacteria related to cavities and infected gums can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of your body. This can put you at risk for respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease.
And don’t forget about bad breath! A yucky mouth is no fun. It can make you feel bad about yourself, and lead to awkward social settings. Left unchecked, bad breath can hurt your self-esteem.
The good news? Dental hygiene can be easy and fun. Follow these dental health best practices and you’ll be smiling all the more.
First things first: Brush and floss regularly. Dentists recommend that you brush at least twice a day, preferably in the morning after breakfast, and before you go to bed.
Brush for about two minutes, using gentle strokes. Furiously scrubbing your teeth may erode your gumline, which can lead to long-term oral health concerns.
You need to floss, too. Seriously. Flossing removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth and under the gumline that your toothbrush may not reach. Removing these particles can keep you from forming cavities. If you don’t love old-school spools of dental floss, dental floss picks are a super convenient alternative.
For children, it’s important to supervise their brushing until they are around eight years old, ensuring they brush for two minutes and cover all areas of their mouth. Using a timer can help them understand how long the process takes.
You can also add some fun by singing a song while they’re brushing, which can help develop positive associations around brushing in kids, too. Just like wheels on the bus go round and round, the dental floss can go up and down. Up and down.
A nutritious diet helps with dental health. Sugary and acidic foods and drinks, such as candy and soda, can damage teeth and cause decay.
Instead of sugar-soaked beverages, drink water with your meals and snacks. You’ll help wash away food particles, and neutralize the acids that can build up even with something as seemingly benign as fruit juice.
Limit your intake of processed foods, which often have added sugars. Instead, eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Get plenty of calcium and Vitamin D.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are great sources of calcium, which strengthens teeth and bones. Pro tip: Food like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, broccoli and kale are rich in Vitamin D, which helps your body process calcium.
Dentists recommend visiting every six months for a cleaning and routine inspection of your teeth. (The dental plans offered by Clearwater Benefits cover these routine cleanings 100%, once every six months.)
During these visits, the dentist can detect any issues early on and provide preventive care, such as fluoride treatments and sealants.
Haven’t seen the dentist in a while? It happens! But it’s best to visit soon so your dentist can get you caught up on your cleanings, and reduce the risk of cavities.
Keep in mind cavity fillings don’t always last a lifetime. Depending on the filling type, you may need replacements in 10 or 15 years. (Especially if you have poor dental hygiene habits.)
For children, it’s important to start dental visits early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see a dentist by their first birthday, or within six months of their first tooth arriving.
These early visits can help establish good oral health habits and prevent future dental problems.
For anyone participating in sports, mouthguards are an essential piece of equipment. They can help prevent dental injuries, such as chipped or knocked-out teeth, which can cost hundreds of dollars—or more—to repair.
Mouthguards are particularly important in contact sports like football, soccer, hockey, or basketball. They’re key for extreme individual sports, too. If you’re skating a half-pipe, working the balance beam, or mountain biking down rocky trails, the last thing you want to worry about is breaking your teeth on a face plant.
The American Dental Association recommends wearing a properly-sized mouthguard that provides a resilient, protective surface on the dental arch.
Mouthguards can also help protect soft tissue injuries to your lips and cheeks.
Today’s consumers have lots of toothbrush options to consider, including electric toothbrushes and manual ones.
When deciding what toothbrush is best for you, two key things to consider are size and bristle variety. For most adults, you’ll want a toothbrush head that is a half-inch wide and one inch tall, so you can reach the backs of your molars.
Soft bristles are often recommended, especially if you vigorously brush your teeth.
For toothpaste, you’ll have plenty of flavors to choose from, so pick one you like. That said, avoid using toothpaste with harsh abrasives or high levels of hydrogen peroxide, which can damage tooth enamel.
Toothpaste should contain fluoride, which helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. Be mindful to avoid fluoride in toothpaste for toddlers until they reach two years of age.
For infants, oral hygiene should begin as soon as the first tooth appears. Use a soft-bristled brush or a clean, damp washcloth to clean the tooth and surrounding gums.
When teeth start to come in a bit more, start brushing twice a day with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush, and plain water. Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday to get an eye on any problems early.
Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle or sippy cup filled with sugary drinks, as this can lead to tooth decay.
Dental anxiety is a common issue for many people, especially children. It’s important to address it early on, to prevent fears of the dentist from becoming a barrier to good dental health going forward.
Speak with your dentist about ways to make visits more comfortable. For example:
Parents can also help alleviate anxiety by talking positively about dental visits and modeling good dental hygiene habits.
By addressing the root causes of dental anxiety, and working to overcome them through effective methods, you’ll not only develop a happier, healthier association with a dentist visit, you’ll improve your dental hygiene and bolster your overall health and wellness.
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