Your mouth is host to bacteria that, unchecked, can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and other oral infections that can impact your overall health.
The good news is that proper oral healthcare – brushing and flossing – combined with a healthy diet and regular visits to the dentist can help ensure you’ll enjoy those pearly whites for many years to come.
Your dentist can recommend the best type of toothbrush for you, but keep in mind that your toothbrush can do its job only if it is in good condition. Once the bristles begin to wear down or you have been sick (bacteria can remain on your brush), it’s time to get a new toothbrush.
If you have difficulty brushing, try using an electric toothbrush. The thing to remember is to brush at least twice a day, use a fluoride toothpaste and do a thorough job.
Flossing lets you clean between teeth and in spots you can’t clean well with your toothbrush. Have your dental hygienist show you the best way to floss and keep up the practice on a daily basis to help keep your gums and teeth healthy.
In addition to a good toothbrush, floss and cavity-fighting toothpaste, Mayo Clinic warns that you should also monitor what medications you take, as some – decongestants, diuretics, antihistamines and painkillers — can reduce the flow of saliva. Saliva plays an important role in good oral health as it washes away bits of food while neutralizing the acids bacteria produce. Too little saliva, or dry mouth, can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria that can result in disease.
To combat dry mouth, Mayo Clinic says, chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candies, limit your caffeine intake, stay away from mouthwash that contains alcohol, don’t smoke or chew tobacco, sip on water throughout the day and try using over-the-counter saliva substitutes or a mouthwash specially designed to help fight dry mouth. Avoid antihistamines and decongestants purchased over the counter and make an effort to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth.
You may not be able to see your baby’s teeth yet, but they are there. Your little one will soon be cutting his first tooth, followed by 19 additional primary, or baby teeth. To clear away harmful bacteria from your baby’s gums, especially as teeth are beginning to erupt, pediatricians and dentists recommend running a damp washcloth over his gums.
Once teeth begin to appear, use an infant toothbrush with a hint of toothpaste until your little one reaches age two, when he should be able to spit while brushing, says Kidshealth.org. Then you can begin using a pea-size amount of toothpaste, supervising tooth-brushing until your child’s fifth birthday.
Best Practices for Children
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep while drinking a bottle because sugars from juice or milk can erode the enamel and cause cavities.
- Discuss with your pediatrician the impact on your baby’s teeth from sucking on bottles, pacifiers and her thumb.
- Visit a pediatric dentist or a family dentist trained – and equipped with proper equipment and facilities – to handle children’s dental health issues, prevent future problems and maintain your child’s good dental health.
- Set a good example for your children by letting them see you brush and floss every day.
- Provide your kids with a healthy diet and offer fruits and vegetables as snacks rather than sugary snacks and drinks.
Fluoride is important to your child’s dental health. Speak to your dentist about fluoride treatments that can be administered in the office as well as the best toothpaste and dental rinses for use at home.