We all know that we need to brush our teeth, even if some are more disciplined than others about following a routine. Yet 92% of American adults (20-64) have cavities, and many face serious health problems such as gum or periodontal disease. Clearly, oral health depends on a lot more than brushing alone. Here are three additional steps you can take to safeguard the health of your mouth:
- Floss Correctly
You may be flossing, but are you flossing well? The type of dental floss you use, despite numerous commercials from dental product companies, doesn’t make a difference beyond personal preference. But your flossing technique does. Use either dental flossers or floss (about 18 inches, with the ends wound around your middle fingers to leave 1-2 inches of taut floss in between) to move carefully in between your teeth, being sure to get under the gumline.
Be sure that the floss “hugs” the curve of each tooth, never cutting directly into the triangle the gums form between teeth. This means that you’ll actually need to move up and down twice between each tooth.
- Prevent Grinding
About 40 million Americans grind their teeth, and 20% aren’t even aware of their problem. Teeth grinding can cause fracturing, loss of teeth and jaw damage. Grinding is often caused by stress or anxiety, but may also be associated with improper jaw or tooth alignment.
There are several strategies patients can try to reduce their grinding, but most should consider night mouth guards to ameliorate the effects of nighttime grinding. If you have a constant headache or wake up with a sore jaw, you should ask a dentist to examine your mouth for signs of grinding.
- Watch Your Diet
Certain foods and beverages are bad for your teeth, even if you brush immediately after a meal as dentists recommend. Fortunately, watching your oral health may improve your overall health, since the foods that are bad for your teeth are often bad for your body as a whole. These include sodas, which are both sugary and effervescent, and candies. Beware sports drinks, which may sound like a healthy alternative, but are generally full of sugar.
Also be cautious when it comes to acidic intake (like citrus) and chewing anything too hard (even ice). High alcohol consumption can lead to dry mouth, which causes tooth decay and gum disease and increases risk of oral cancer over time.
What else do you do to improve oral health? Share in the comments.
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