• December 10, 2019

STONE: Brush, floss, repeat - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Brush, floss, repeat

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Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2019 4:30 am

Whether out of fear, finances, or just plain neglect, roughly 50 percent of adults in the United States do not see a dentist regularly.

As an integral part of overall health, dental hygiene impacts — for better or worse — our entire body and should be maintained to the same degree as other organs and systems. 

The human mouth carries far more significance than its obvious role of simply eating, chewing, and swallowing. It can also be a precursor to optimal cardiac functioning, an early warning indicator of certain cancers, or even a predictor of digestive issues.

Understanding its importance, oral hygiene should be high on everyone’s list and here are a few tips to keep that smile — and body looking and feeling great.

First, take the plunge and schedule an appointment with a dentist. Regardless if it’s been several years since your last visit (or have never been before), this is the first step in establishing a current oral health history and baseline to build from. 

Part of the exam will be your dentist obtaining a history and assessment of your mouth, teeth, gums and tongue to identify any problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, trauma, and also a screening for any forms of oral cancers. 

Part of the exam may also include assistance from a dental hygienist, a specially trained individual equipped to do a thorough cleaning of your teeth, as well as provide additional education for continued oral care. 

Since many people avoid the dentist out of fear, finances, or even both, it’s important to be honest and forthcoming with any issues you have ahead of making an appointment.  Their staff will help guide you through the process as well as answer, and may even help resolve financial concerns, questions you have.

Like the adage goes “what you put into something is what you’ll likely get out of it,” our oral health is dependent on the dietary choices we make. 

One notable item is our nation’s love for sodas. Regardless of type, flavor, or brand sodas are a mouth worst nightmare. While it’s not just the sugary sweetness (diet sodas are just as bad), it’s the highly acidic components of soda that kill teeth. 

Look at the ingredients in soda and you’ll find the likes of phosphoric and citric acids, both of which can cause irreparable damage to teeth enamel. While sodas may be a hard habit to kick, a better (tooth friendly) alternative is switching to water. And, if water just isn’t your bag, try sprucing it up with natural flavoring options such as sliced fruit or herbs.

Speaking of food choices, one of the more obvious bad choices comes in the form of sugary snacks. As a major contributor to tooth decay and gum disease, sugar is the ideal fuel source for acid producing, plaque-building bacteria that literally eats away gums and tooth enamel. 

What makes this even more difficult to manage is how sneaky sugar can be in finding its way into our diet. Most processed foods (even those attempting to be marketed as “healthy”) have added sugar within their list of ingredients, and while hard to avoid, can begin damaging teeth in as little as 20 minutes after eating them. 

Your best bet? Pack a toothbrush with you and brush those teeth shortly after eating meals. At the very least, brush twice a day and floss at least daily to get the residual sugar, bacteria, and plaque that loves to hang around on your teeth.

Next, make sure you are using the right toothbrush. Yes, there is a difference in not only what you choose, but also how you are using it. With all the options out there, it can be challenging in making your selection. 

When considering your choices, opt for toothbrushes with soft bristles to gently lift and remove plaque and rounded edges to avoid unintended trauma to cheeks and gums. Keep note as well that toothbrushes should be replaced at least every three months, become frayed or damaged, or after you’ve been sick from the cold or flu. For additional guidance, work with your dental hygienist to ensure you are on the right track.

Flossing is another element of oral care that can be missed or done incorrectly, similar to brushing. 

The correct way is to wrap about 10 to 12 inches of floss around your index fingers, keeping roughly 2 inches between your fingers to work with. Gently glide floss in between each tooth and work under the gum line to remove any food debris and plaque. Continue on every tooth, unrolling a fresh section of floss between your index fingers, until all teeth have been flossed.

Lastly, ditch cigarettes and all other tobacco products. Not only do they cause unsightly staining of teeth, but also lend their fair share of destruction as well. 

Like sugary snacks, they’re equally as damaging but in the form of nicotine and tar. Each of these byproducts of cigarettes and tobacco provide ideal environments for bacteria and plaque to thrive.  But, receding gum lines and rotted teeth are just the tip of the iceberg.

Tobacco products also serve as a catalyst for the development of mouth and tongue cancer as well. There are so many reasons to quit tobacco and now you can add this to the list of benefits you’ll get from kicking the habit.

Another key to improving your overall health is simple — see your dentist regularly and brush, floss, repeat. 


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