Keeping Our Teeth Forever
I have a 7-year-old nephew who is always “by the book” about everything he does. I knew that if I offered to share some essential tips on dental care, he would be all for it and I would be setting him up for a lifetime of good habits. So I asked him if he wanted to know the secret to keeping his teeth healthy forever. Boy, was he ever attentive! I realized that this was not only good for him but for most everyone else to know (or to be reminded of, at least). So, here go my good-for-the-teeth recommendations (adult version):
- Brushing & Flossing – Become an expert at brushing and flossing your own teeth. Your technique of brushing is more important than the products you use. It is better to do a good and thorough job once a day compared to brushing three times a day and missing lots of spots. (Just for the record, toothbrushing two times a day is best.) A good way to see where your toothbrush misses is to use disclosing tablets you can get at a pharmacy. It’s an easy (and eye-opening) way to see how thorough you are brushing. After you chew a tablet, it temporarily leaves behind a red stain on areas of plaque left behind. For some, flossing can be such a mental and technical challenge. Get instructions from a dental professional and practice. They say habits become habits after about 21 consecutive times of practicing. Try it out. The main cause for tooth loss is gum (periodontal) disease. Although gum disease can be inherited from our family history, much can be done to prevent its progression with good habits. More than 60% of our teeth surfaces are in between our teeth. Interestingly enough, more than 80% of our gum problems occur there. (Subtle hint: floss). Gum disease is the kind of thing that only causes pain in the later stages of its progression, and once you get to this point, there are very few or no options to treat it aside from extraction. So, don’t delay in getting your gums in good shape. Your dental hygienist can also offer additional hygiene tools and techniques personalized for your needs.
- Fix Problem Areas – Totally fix your mouth so there are no areas that trap plaque or food or cause infection. These areas include chipped or fractured teeth, “leaking” fillings or crowns, and missing teeth. See your dentist to remove any decay and replace old, rough fillings and crowns with smooth, tightly-sealed restorations. There is so much available today for the dental patient in terms of materials and techniques. Because of this, we can care for teeth in a way that preserves natural tooth structure as much as possible and provide very nice-looking results. The porcelain onlay is one such example of a restoration that has arisen from newer materials and bonding techniques and has withstood the test of time. The onlay covers the chewing surfaces of a back tooth and protects what has decayed or has become weakened. Instead of a full crown, a partial coverage onlay can protect what it needs to, stay away from the gumline (therefore less irritating), and looks great too.
- Limit Sugary Foods – Limit the intake of sugary foods and drinks. Sugar in our diet is broken down into acid, which, in turn, works to dissolve enamel and create cavities. Did you know that, aside from water, a lot of beverages already contain some amount of acid? Even though diet sodas are sugar-free, the acid content can still affect teeth. I love sweets as much as the next person, but moderation is always a good rule of thumb. If we’re good with recommendation #1 up above, we can have some of our cake and eat it too.
- Preventive Maintenance – Make time for your preventive maintenance appointments (dental cleanings). People often times see their dentist more than their family physician. It is during these visits that both patient and provider can pause and focus on better oral health and, consequently, better healthy habits. Did you know that people who floss live longer? It’s true, but probably because people that floss tend to take better care of themselves in general.
After sharing the “secret” with my nephew, he seemed to take my advice to heart and even shared it with his friends. I look forward to seeing him have cavity-free dental checkups from here on out! As a dentist, my goal is to treat dental disease, restore health, and educate — essentially helping you to keep your teeth forever…with some honest-to-goodness effort on your part, of course.
Children 16 years and younger are invited to a complimentary exam and checkup x-rays.