Health

8 steps to dental health

It takes more than just brushing

By Dr Sharon Robinson

Sunday, January 07, 2018



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. That doesn't have to happen. There are steps to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.

Step 1

Understand your own oral health needs. Your oral health depends on many factors. These include what you eat, the type and amount of saliva in your mouth, your habits, your overall health, and your oral hygiene routine.

Changes in your overall health status often result in changes in your oral health. For example, many medicines, including more than 300 common drugs, can reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth, resulting in dry mouth.

Women who are pregnant go through oral changes. This often includes inflammation of the gums, which is called pregnancy gingivitis. Patients with asthma often breathe through their mouths, particularly when sleeping. This can result in dry mouth and increased plaque formation and gingivitis. People with braces have more difficulty cleaning their teeth and can get more cavities.

Step 2

Commit to a daily oral health routine.

Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your oral health practices. Based on the discussion, come up with an effective routine. It should be easy to follow and should take your situation into account.

Step 3

Use fluoride products.

Everyone can benefit from fluoride, not just children. Fluoride strengthens developing teeth in children and it also helps prevent decay in adults and children.

Toothpastes and mouthwashes are good sources of fluoride. Your dentist can prescribe a stronger concentration of fluoride in a gel, toothpaste or rinse if you need it. Gels are either brushed on or applied using a tray.

Step 4

Brush and floss to remove plaque.

Everyone should brush at least twice a day. It's even better to brush three times a day, or after every meal. In addition, you should floss at least once a day. 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 turn the sugars found in most foods and drinks into acids that lead to decay. Bacteria in plaque also cause gingivitis and other periodontal diseases.

Step 5

Limit snacks, particularly those high in simple sugars, and eat a balanced diet.

Every time you eat, bits of food become lodged in and around your teeth. This food provides fuel for the bacteria in plaque. The bacteria produce acid. Each time you eat food containing sugars or starches (complex sugars), your teeth are exposed to these acids. This occurs more often if you eat snacks and the food stays on your teeth for a while. These repeated acid attacks can break down the enamel surface of your teeth, leading to a cavity.

A balanced diet is also important. Not getting enough minerals and vitamins can affect your oral health, as well as your general health.

Step 6

If you use tobacco in any form, quit.

Smoking or using smokeless tobacco increases your risk of oral cancer, gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth decay. Using tobacco also contributes to bad breath and stains on your teeth.

Step 7

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 and dental hygienist see you only a few times a year, but you can examine your mouth weekly to look for changes that might be of concern. Changes in your mouth that you should look for include:

• Swollen gums

• Chipped teeth

• Discoloured teeth

• 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 a sore, spot, patch, or lump is most likely to appear.

Step 8

Visit the dental office regularly.

Talk to your dentist about how often you should visit. If you have a history of cavities or crown and bridge work, or are wearing braces, you should visit the dentist more often. Some people, such as diabetics or smokers, have more gum disease than the general population. They also should visit the dentist more often.

People with suppressed immune systems also are more likely to have dental problems. Examples include people who are infected with HIV or are receiving cancer treatment. More frequent visits for these groups are important to maintain good oral health.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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