You take good care for your teeth; you brush after meals, you floss, you try to cut back on stain-causing coffee, and you keep your regular dental appointments. But is there more you could be doing to keep your teeth healthy and looking their best? You bet! Here are five things you may not know about oral hygiene.
1. There really IS such a thing as too much fluoride
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral which is added to water and dental products, such as toothpaste, because it is proven to help prevent tooth decay. In fact, so many products, from mouthwashes to processed food products, contain fluorides, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made a recommendation in 2010 to limit the level of fluoride in community drinking weather.
So, if fluoride is good for our teeth, why does our increased intake of fluoride matter? And what can we do about it? Very elevated levels of fluoride intake can lead to a case of fluorosis. And while this condition will not cause pain or cavities, it can lead to unsightly white spots on tooth enamel. The easiest way to moderate your intake of fluoride is to drink unfluoridated spring water instead of community whatever, when available, and to keep an eye on how much toothpaste you use as you brush each day. Most experts agree that about a pea-sized amount is enough.
2. A healthy amount of saliva is a MUST
When it comes to oral care, many people believe that a toothbrush is a tooth’s best friend. While a toothbrush is completely necessary in your oral healthcare arsenal, the saliva found in your own mouth plays an even more important role for teeth. Think of your saliva as a naturally occurring cavity fighter which helps to wash food particles and bacteria out of your mouth. Furthermore, the bacteria that gets left in your mouth causes not only tooth decay, but bad breath as well.
If you are on a medication which causes you to experience severe dry mouth, try talking with your MD about solutions. Otherwise, good solutions for everyone to put into practice are to keep water on hand at all times to keep the mouth moist and the body hydrated and to use sugar-free mints to fight bad breath.
3. Snacking too often can hurt your mouth too, not just your waistline
Remember how saliva helps to wash away food and bacteria from your teeth? The more often you put food, especially sugary bacteria-causing food, into your mouth, the more saliva has to work to replenish itself and keep your mouth clean. The same can be said for sipping a sugary or acidic drink between meals (think coffee, tea, and soft-drinks, even those which are sugar-free). In order to give the acids from foods a time to neutralize in your mouth and the bacteria from sugars a chance to get washed down by saliva, your teeth need a break between meals – this is why constant snacking is not ideal.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is pretty straightforward; try to avoid constant snacking during the day. And, if you must snack, make smart choices and avoid sugary or starchy foods and acidic beverages. Another great idea is to keep a toothbrush handy for use after snacks. Rinsing with water after eating or drinking can be beneficial as well.
4. Rinsing your mouth completely free of toothpaste may not be necessary
As you’ve learned, too much fluoride can be a problem – so you certainly don’t want to swallow a mouthful of toothpaste after you brush! However, it’s just not really necessary to swish and remove every trace of toothpaste from your mouth after you spit. And, as you’ve learned before, you should only be brushing with a small amount of toothpaste anyway; most people tend to go overboard and use too much. The longer the fluoride from the toothpaste is in contact with your teeth, the more time it has to work. That’s why rinsing after spitting is an option, but not a necessity.
5. Your mouth is a very good indicator of your overall health
We all know that having a healthy mouth is an important part of being healthy, but few people realize just how very closely dental health is intertwined with health issues affecting other areas of the body. Studies show that adults who have higher levels of gum disease also have higher levels of heart disease. Adults with gum disease are also more likely to give birth to premature babies or suffer from diabetes.
While there are no studies yet which prove a causal relationship between gum disease and illnesses, such as heart disease, which affect other areas of the body, there is clearly a link. Experts believe that infections in the mouth and their associated bacteria and inflammation adversely affect the rest of the body by keeping it from performing as it should.