Cavities and periodontal (gum) disease are highly avoidable. Still, gum disease remains the most prevalent disease of all Americans, affecting nearly half of adults. Cavities are even more common.
According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), almost 91 percent of aged 20 to 64 American adults had dental caries (cavities) in one study. They also reported that 96 percent had tooth decay by the age of 65. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm)
While both gum disease and cavities require time and money to repair, the problems can extend far beyond the mouth. And, the repercussions to one’s overall health can be greatly impacted by the state of oral health.
Oral bacteria is the source for all-things-bad in the mouth. Although every mouth contains a certain level of bacteria, it’s the accumulation of it in just over the course of a day or two that can trigger a destructive chain reaction. Too much bacteria accumulation in the mouth can set a path to inflammation, tooth loss, and even serious health conditions and diseases.
Research has tracked the reactions caused by the inflamatory oral bacteria that penetrates into the bloodstream. Researchers have found that these inflammatory triggers can lead to a number of problems, including heart disease, stroke, preterm babies, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and impotency.
Current studies are looking at connections between gum disease bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease and the misdirection of healthy gut bacteria.
And losing a natural tooth does not result in a simple one-&-done fix. Unless the tooth is replaced with a dental implant, the loss of a tooth can progress into continued tooth loss and changes in bite alignment.
Rather than deal with the treatment time and costs associated with repairing these problems, simple steps are often all that’s typically needed to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place. While your 6-month check-ups are designed to help you regain a healthy foundation twice a year, what you do between these visits is a significant part of maintaining the ‘clean slate’ your dental hygienists give you at each cleaning appointment.
Okay, okay – I can imagine what you’re thinking right now: “I already DO a good job taking care of my teeth at home.” I certainly don’t doubt that you are being diligent about brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and limiting sugar. (I HOPE you are doing these!) However, I’d like you to rethink a few fine points so you can maximize the good you do during your at-home oral care routine.
• RETHINK TWO + TWO = FOUR: This breaks down simply. Brush at least TWO times a day. Spend at least TWO minutes brushing. And, when brushing, divide the mouth into FOUR parts (quadrants) for more focused time when brushing. Go over all areas of each quadrant, not forgetting the the back sides of teeth and angling toward the gumline.
• RETHINK YOUR TOUCH: The tendency of many people in brushing is to scrub teeth using pressure so “they get really clean.” But a toothbrush’s bristles are designed so the tips sweep over teeth to rough up the filmy layer of bacteria that coats teeth after 8 or so hours. When you push down on the bristles too much, it is the sides of the bristles that move across teeth rather than the tips. If you wonder if you are using too much pressure, look at your toothbrush after a month or so’s use. If the bristles are starting to bend outward, you’re pressing down too hard. (And be sure to only purchase a medium to soft bristled toothbrush. The firm ones can wear away tooth enamel as well as tender gum tissues.)
• RETHINK FLOSSING: As a dentist, I’ve heard about every excuse under the sun as to why people don’t floss. However, if I flossed between several teeth and had you look at it under a microscope, I’m doubtful there would be nearly as many excuses and more would be people flossing every day. People who are in the habit of flossing each day find the maneuvers quick and easy. If you aren’t one of them, consider purchasing an electronic flosser. Studies have shown these can be just as effective as manual flossing. Or, check out our video on flossing for some easy tips: https://www.banrbarbatdds.com/videos/#flossing-tips
• RETHINK YOUR WATER INTAKE: Keeping the mouth moist can support saliva levels. By drinking plain water throughout the day, saliva production is able to efficiently rinse away bacteria and food particles from the mouth. This helps to keep bacteria levels more manageable.
Being committed to doing a good job caring for your teeth every day can pay off with better oral health, fresher breath, and saving you money. Look again at your time at the sink and enjoy the benefits of prevention!
If you’re behind on your dental exams and cleanings, our Shelby Township dental office is always pleased to welcome new patients. Plus, we offer a complete menu of all dental services for all ages, including dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics, and treatment of TMJ disorders. And, if dental fear or dread of visits has kept you from achieving the smile you desire, we have helped hundreds of patients overcome their challenges, many for good!