Taking care of your teeth isn’t just about having fresh breath and an attractive smile. Recent studies are finding that the condition of your mouth is closely linked to your total body wellness. Here are four reasons why your dentist may be the first health care professional to detect serious health problems, such as long-term stress, poorly controlled diabetes, heart disease and pregnancy complications.
1. Heart conditions
Studies have shown that people with gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart problems than those with healthy gums. This can occur when bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream and causes inflammation in other parts of the body. The inflammatory response can trigger clot formation and thickening of the arteries, which increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes. If you have a history of heart problems, it is important to practice proper oral hygiene at home and to visit your dentist for routine examinations.
If you have diabetes, you have a much higher risk of developing gum disease than someone without diabetes — more than twice as likely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral infections are also more severe in diabetic patients because the condition affects the body’s healing process and lowers resistance to infection. Conversely, having gum disease makes it very difficult for someone with diabetes to control his or her blood sugar levels. Proper brushing and flossing, routine checkups with your dentist and managing blood glucose levels are the best ways to ward off oral health issues causes by diabetes.
3. Chronic stress
A peek inside of your mouth by your dentist may indicate that you’re stressed. That’s because worn down teeth caused by grinding or clenching in your sleep, also known as bruxism, is a common condition diagnosed and treated by dentists. Many people aren’t aware of the impact of their grinding until they visit their dentist for a routine checkup. Wearing a mouth guard at night will protect your teeth and prevent further damage and discomfort by alleviating the tension on the teeth and jaw.
4. Pregnancy complications
Failing to properly care for teeth and gums during pregnancy can also have serious consequences for an expectant mother and her baby. As a woman’s hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, her risk of developing gum disease increases, which can result in preterm, low-birth-weight babies. If you are pregnant and notice changes in your gum tissues, including inflammation, bleeding or tenderness, talk to your dentist right away. Women can reduce their risk of pregnancy complications caused by gum disease by addressing oral health issues before becoming pregnant.
Bottom line: Good oral health plays a critical role in your overall health, and visiting your dentist may unveil important clues about your general well being. Combined with proper oral hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, you can maintain your optimal oral health and avoid a range of serious health problems.
Most of us have been brushing our teeth for so long that it’s second nature. But proper brushing may not be as simple as you think. Here are four common toothbrush mistakes you should avoid in order to prevent cavities and other serious oral health issues.
1. You’re using the wrong toothbrush.
If you want to brush your teeth correctly, then you must first start with the right tool. Toothbrushes today come in all shapes and sizes, but if you aren’t using the right one for your teeth, you may be causing more harm than good. Stiff, hard bristles can damage your gums, and a toothbrush that is too big can’t clean hard-to-reach back teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a soft-bristled brush with a small head that allows you to easily reach all surfaces of the mouth.
Once you’ve selected the right toothbrush for the job, make sure you replace it at least every three months or when the bristles have become frayed. You should also replace your toothbrush following a cold or the flu to avoid recontamination.
2. You’re brushing too hard.
One misconception about tooth brushing is that the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth will be. But the truth is that brushing with too much force can wear away the tooth’s protective enamel and irritate the gums by exposing the sensitive root area. Instead, focus on brushing gently and thoroughly with a soft-bristled brush to effectively remove plaque and debris from your teeth and along the gum line. As a general rule, if the bristles on your brush are flattening or fraying, you are applying too much pressure when you brush.
3. You’re not brushing long enough or often enough.
In order for brushing to benefit your teeth and gums, the ADA recommends that you brush your teeth at least twice a day for a full two minutes. If you don’t brush long enough, there’s a good chance you are leaving behind food and bacteria on your teeth that can cause decay and gum disease. If you’re having trouble adhering to the two-minute rule, consider setting a timer or listening to a song to ensure you pay attention to all areas of your mouth.
4. You’re not brushing correctly.
Effective tooth brushing also requires proper technique. A back-and-forth motion should be avoided as it can cause gums to recede. Instead, hold your brush against your gum line at a 45-degree angle and use short, gentle strokes to thoroughly clean all surfaces of each tooth. Finally, don’t forget to floss daily — it’s just as important as brushing.
As you can see, brushing your teeth doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple improvements to your brushing regimen combined with regular visits to your dentist can have a positive and lasting impact on the health of your teeth and gums.
Keeping your smile healthy and attractive requires dedicated, daily care. However, even with the best brushing habits, you could be causing serious damage to your smile without knowing it. Here are common habits you should avoid in order to keep your teeth healthy.
Many people grind or clench their teeth when they are nervous, stressed or sleeping. When this behavior persists, it can wear down teeth, fracture teeth and even ruin past dental work. Many people who grind also experience frequent jaw pain and headaches. Fortunately, this behavior can usually be managed with something as simple as wearing a custom-fitted oral appliance while you sleep to reduce pressure and damage on the teeth and jaw.
Chomping on ice
If you habitually chew on ice while sipping a cold beverage, you could be setting your teeth up for serious damage. That’s because ice cubes can chip or crack your teeth. Instead of munching on ice, try chewing sugarless gum instead or request your drink without ice when dining out.
Playing sports without protective gear
Just as you need to protect your head and other parts of the body when playing football, hockey or other high impact sports, it’s also important that you protect your smile from injury by wearing a mouth guard. By wearing a custom-fitted mouth guard during sports and other physical activities, you can help avoid chipped or broken teeth, tooth loss and other mouth-related injuries.
Using teeth as tools
Teeth aren’t designed for non-chewing purposes, so avoid using them for tearing tags, biting nails, chomping on pencils or opening packages. When teeth are used for anything other than chewing and smiling, it can lead to fractured teeth, tooth loss or even jaw damage. Instead, use the right tool for the job, such as scissors or pliers, and save yourself a lot of pain and unnecessary dental work in the future.
Soft drinks may be your beverage of choice, but they contain large amounts of sugar and acids that weaken tooth enamel and contribute to the formation of cavities. To avoid the harmful effects of soft drinks on your smile, rinse your mouth with water after having a soda, reduce the amount you consume, and opt for healthier beverage choices in place of sugary, carbonated drinks.
There are countless reasons to stop smoking, and protecting your smile is one of them. Cigarettes and other tobacco products can stain teeth and lead to gum disease and oral cancer. Stop using tobacco now to significantly reduce your risk of serious oral health issues.
Other habits that can wreck your smile include getting oral piercings, brushing too hard and even using toothpicks. The good news is that with a heightened awareness of bad dental habits, you can take steps to reduce and eliminate damaging behaviors and preserve your healthy, beautiful smile.
It’s common to experience changes in our teeth and gums as we get older. In fact, reaching the golden years puts seniors at a much higher risk for oral health issues, many of which result from the natural aging process, limited access to oral health care, or physical limitations that prevent someone from properly caring for their mouth on a daily basis.
Here are some common dental concerns faced by seniors and ways you can keep oral health issues at bay with age.
Dental Concerns for Seniors
Dry mouth is a common condition experienced by seniors, often caused by certain illnesses or medications. Without proper saliva flow — the body’s natural defense against bacteria and debris that accumulate in the mouth — teeth are much more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. A dedicated brushing routine combined with regular visits to your dentist can help combat dry mouth that leads to decay and other dental problems as you age.
Studies show that today’s older adults, particularly those aged 65 and older, experience higher rates of tooth decay than younger individuals. This may be caused by receding gums and exposed root surfaces that naturally occur with age; increased dryness in the mouth; and poor oral hygiene due to infrequent dental visits and an inability to properly care for their teeth with age. Maintaining proper oral hygiene and seeking professional dental care are just a few ways to avoid decay in your later years.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, also becomes more prevalent with age. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 70 percent of Americans 65 and older have some form of gum disease, a chronic infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Without proper treatment, periodontal disease can destroy the surrounding tissues, eventually causing bone and tooth loss. To preserve your natural smile and avoid tooth loss caused by gum disease, adopt healthy oral hygiene habits at home and maintain routine checkups with your dentist.
Oral Health Tips for Older Adults
The good news is that in recent years advances in dental care have made it much easier and affordable for seniors to retain their natural teeth for life. Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to reduce common dental problems associated with aging.
Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
Visit your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and checkups.
Stop smoking or using tobacco.
Eat a well-balanced diet and regulate sugar intake.
Notify your dentist immediately if you notice changes in the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums.
Properly maintain dental appliances, including dentures and dental bridges.
Though older adults are faced with additional oral health challenges, you can take important steps now to reduce the risk of serious dental issues. Start by practicing excellent dental health habits at home, adopting smart diet and lifestyle choices, and visiting your dentist for regular exams and cleanings.
Your dentist plays a big role in your overall health. Not only do dentists keep your teeth healthy and clean, but they also screen you for many diseases that can impact other areas of your health, that could lead to oral cancer or risk for heart disease. It is your dentist and the staff at the dental office that ensures your smile remains vibrant and beautiful for years to come. Choosing a dentist is not a decision to take lightly. Here are some guidelines to consider.
Consider the Overall Approach to Dentistry
Like most types of doctors, dentists vary significantly in their overall approaches to dentistry. Some are traditional, while others take a more natural, holistic approach, treating oral health as part of your overall health. You should find a dentist that has an approach that fits your view of health and dental care.
Consider the Insurance They Take
Finding a dentist that accepts your insurance will save you a significant amount of money. Of course, you don’t want to settle for the wrong dentist just because of financial constraints, but insurance is definitely something to consider.
Consider the Environment
Does the dentist’s office make you feel calm, comfortable and welcome? Does it have a place for your children to play while you wait? Does the reception staff seem friendly and welcoming? These questions are an important aspect of choosing a dentist, because you may find that some appointments cause you or a member of your family to feel anxious. A calm, welcoming office can help alleviate some of that anxiety.
Is the dentist available if you have dental emergency? This is particularly important if you have children, because you may end up with a child who knocks out a tooth outside of normal office hours. Find out what the emergency services are at the dentist’s office. If they do not have any, find out where you should go if you have a true dental emergency.
Consider the Range of Care
As you look for a dental office, consider the range of care offered by the particular office you are considering. Many dentists are general dentists, but they may not offer oral surgery or cosmetic dentistry. If you know that you need extensive oral surgery, then this type of office would not be a good fit for you.
No particular type of dentist is a perfect fit for any one patient, but make sure the dentist you choose is a good fit for the oral health needs you have. Find out where you will go should you need a service that the dentist does not offer.
Choosing a dentist is important, because you will be working with your dentist for years to come to protect your oral health. Make the decision carefully, and enjoy the benefit of a dentist that you are comfortable with as you seek to maintain your oral health. If you are looking for a dental team with a holistic approach, consider Natural Horizons Wellness Centers.