Good oral health means a mouth that's free of disease - which can range all the way from mild gingivitis to oral cancer; a bite that functions well enough for you to eat without pain; and a smile you can flash with confidence.
Simply put, oral health is a crucial component of your overall health and well-being. It's important to realize that small - and readily treatable - problems in your mouth can become more complicated, painful, and expensive if neglected for too long. Some of these oral health conditions may even have ramifications throughout the whole body and in many ways, the health of the mouth mirrors the health of the body. Gingivitis, for example, can sometimes progress to periodontitis - a more serious form of gum disease that can loosen teeth and cause them to fall out. Missing teeth can lead to bone loss in the jaw and inadequate nutrition. Numerous studies have shown that people with severe gum disease may be at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
As doctors who specialize in oral health, dentists offer a wide range of preventive services. At your regular exams, you will be checked for any signs of oral cancer, tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral infections. During professional cleanings, hard-to-reach deposits from your teeth will be cleaned and preventive services may be available. So don't wait for a serious problem to come up before you make an appointment at the dental office. Having regular checkups could save you lots of time, aggravation, and cost in the long run.
What can I do to stay healthy at home?
Nutrition and lifestyle choices play an important role in oral health. You don't have any control over hereditary factors that may predispose you to oral diseases - but you do have control over how much sugar you eat and when you eat it; how often you exercise; whether you smoke; and how often you visit the dentist.
Regular dental visits play a critical role in maintaining your oral health, however, it is just as important to adopt an effective daily oral hygiene routine for in between visits. This will help you keep your teeth clean, your gums pink and healthy, and your breath fresh. Your regular routine should include the following:
- Brush and Floss. You should brush at least twice a day and floss at least once daily. This will help remove plaque, a bacteria-laden biofilm, from the surfaces of your teeth. The bacteria in plaque can turn sugars from food into acids, which attack the tooth's enamel and cause tooth decay. Some bacteria can also cause gingivitis and other gum diseases.
- Use fluoride. Make sure you're getting the proper amount of fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel — it's essential for children's developing teeth, and helps prevent decay in both kids and adults. Even if your municipal water is fluoridated, you should always use fluoride toothpaste. If more fluoride is needed, a topical fluoride varnish can be applied directly to your teeth at the dental office.
- Limit between-meal snacks. Sugary snacks are the perfect fuel for decay-causing bacteria — and when eaten throughout the day, they keep the acid constantly on the attack. So give your mouth a break, and limit sugary treats to mealtimes.
- Use an appropriate mouthrinse — especially if you're at increased risk. Therapeutic mouthrinses do more than temporarily mask bad smells or tastes in your mouth — they can improve your overall oral hygiene. While some over-the counter products offer primarily “cosmetic” benefits, therapeutic rinses contain anti-bacterial and anti-cariogenic (cavity-fighting) ingredients. Using a therapeutic mouthrinse has been proven to control plaque bacteria and prevent cavities better than brushing and flossing alone.
- Quit tobacco. Whether smoked or smokeless, tobacco use greatly increases your risk of oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay (not to mention heart disease and lung cancer). If you use tobacco, ask us how to quit now.
- Examine your mouth regularly. Once you've established a regular routine, you'll quickly recognize any changes in your mouth — like chipped teeth, red or swollen gums, or unusual sores. If you find something of concern, let us know. Early treatment offers the best chance to remedy many problems.
A major goal of modern dentistry is to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime. By following a conscientious program of oral hygiene, you have the best chance at making this goal a reality