Although a twice daily brushing and flossing routine is a vital part of your dental care, there is more to consider when it comes to improving your oral health. A combination of factors plays off one another and influences the state of your dental health. By taking the time to deliberately (and methodically) address each area, you maximize your chance to avoid tooth decay, dental abscesses and periodontal disease.
Here are five things you should keep in mind as you work to improve your oral health.
1. Choose Your Snacks and Meals Carefully
When you sit down to eat, you’re not the only one who’s enjoying your meal. The bacteria on your teeth are also dining on the food that gets left behind in the crevices between your teeth. As bacteria chow down, they excrete acidic waste that begins the tooth decay process at the surface of your enamel. Over time, the decay causes cavities, which can increase in severity without prompt treatment. In fact, over time, the cavity will eventually reach the pulp in the center of your tooth and potentially allow bacteria to infect the root.
You can mitigate this process, and slow down tooth decay, by minimizing the amount of sugary foods, bacteria’s favorite treat, in your diet. And it’s not just cookies and cakes you’ll want to cut back on, carbohydrate-rich foods — such as breads and pasta — also have sugars. A taste on special occasions is okay, of course, but these foods are best enjoyed in moderation.
On the other hand, foods that are low in sugar, but high in fiber, calcium and protein all help improve the strength and condition of your teeth. A high fiber content, found in crunch foods like carrots and broccoli, helps scrape stickier foods out of the crevices in your teeth, so your saliva can rinse those surfaces nearly all the way clean. Calcium and protein are the building blocks of strong bones and teeth, so it is important to consume 100% of your suggested daily value for these nutrients each day.
Work these calcium and protein rich foods into your daily diet to improve your oral health:
- Collard greens
- Broccoli rabe
2. Limit Consumption of Acidic Beverages
Acidic drinks can also damage your tooth enamel. As with acidic bacterial waste, acids from certain beverages slowly eat away at the enamel, dentin and pulp of each tooth over time.
Beverages with high acid levels include soda pop, wine and fruit juice — especially citrus flavors—so limit how much you consume to keep your teeth in great condition. You can slightly mitigate the effect by choosing sugar free variants. This will cut down on the amount of sugar bacteria have to convert into acid, but it doesn’t actually decrease the acid levels of the juice itself. You can also water down your juice to slow the acid erosion process.
3. Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco Products
Smoking and using oral tobacco products damages your gum tissue and kick starts the progression of periodontal disease.
As periodontal disease slowly, but steadily, worsens, the gum tissue begins to recede, causing teeth to become loose or even fall out. As you lose teeth, your jaw bone recedes and weakens the connection with adjacent teeth.
Furthermore, the paired teeth along the opposite row will eventually need to be pulled once you lose the support teeth.
If you act swiftly, before you start to lose teeth, you can actually reverse the damage caused by periodontal disease. The first step is to promptly and completely stop using all types of tobacco products. You will also need to schedule an appointment with your dental care provider to have the pockets that have formed around your gums cleaned out to encourage reattachment to your teeth. After you’ve done this, start flossing daily to help restore the gum tissue and keep it healthy over time.
4. Learn About Your Unique Oral Health
Your gender, age, health condition and lifestyle habits all paint a picture of your unique oral health. Your dentist uses this information to determine your risk factors for various dental problems and diseases. Understanding your unique oral health condition can help you focus on self-care areas in need of improvement.
If you have a strong family history of periodontal disease, for example, you may need to work an additional flossing session into your day to promote good gum attachment. Furthermore, if you are at high risk for cavity development, you may need more frequent dental checkups and cleanings to keep a close eye on the condition of your teeth.
When you schedule your next appoint, ask your dentist to clearly discuss your unique oral health condition and risk factors to better understand where you stand.
5. Schedule Regular Appointments With Your Dentist
Most people only need to visit their dentist twice a year for a thorough examination and teeth cleaning. If a problem arises, such as gum or tooth pain, additional visits may be needed. If you face an increased risk of developing certain dental problems, or are working toward resolving existing issues, your dentist may need to see you more frequently than this.
It is important that you do your best to maintain your suggested appointment schedule to avoid letting cavities and other minor problems worsen. Treating cavities and other dental health conditions at the earliest stages gives you the best chance at making a full and rapid recovery. Waiting, on the other hand, can lead to severe and, in extreme cases, even life threatening complications, like tooth abscesses and infections.
As you adopt these five healthy habits, you should see an improvement in your oral health. You’ll likely see a decrease in signs of tooth decay and avoid the onset of serious oral health conditions altogether. If you suffered from preexisting oral health issues, you may see your teeth and gums begin the healing process and become stronger than they ever have been before.
Continue to work closely with your dentist and practice good oral healthcare routines at home to retain these benefits throughout life.