Beyond Brushing: Your Oral Health Care Plan

A healthy mouth and teeth will stay that way by following a good plan for oral care. These are the things you should consider:

Start by talking to your dentist

To gain a good understanding of your own oral health, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about the current condition of your mouth, teeth and gums. You should also discuss any medical conditions you might have that could affect your oral health. Cancer, pregnancy, diabetes, and heart disease can significantly impact the way you need to care for your teeth, mouth and gums. Let your dentist know if your health has changed or if there are any new medicines or natural supplements and herbs you have started taking prior to your last visit.

Follow a daily dental care routine

Brushing and flossing are part of any good dental health routine. You may also benefit from mouth rinses. If you have medical issues that can affect your dental health, your dentist or hygienist might have you perform additional routines to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. It’s important for you to incorporate these tasks into you daily routine to maintain optimal oral health.

Use fluoride

Fluoride strengthens teeth. Fluoride also prevents tooth decay in children as well as adults. In areas without fluoride or where fluoride levels are low, it’s wise to supplement with additional fluoride. Many toothpastes and mouthwashes contain fluoride. Talk to your dentist or hygienist to determine whether a fluoride supplement is required. In some cases a prescription fluoride supplement might be recommended.

Remove plaque every day

You remove plaque by brushing, flossing and rinsing your teeth every day. Brush your teeth after every meal. Or, at minimum, once in the morning and again at night. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after brushing. Flossing once a day removes plaque between teeth and maintains gum health. Left in the mouth, plaque harbors bacteria that eat sugars to create acids that damage tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Bacteria in plaque between the teeth and gums can cause gum disease. Brushing and flossing every day reduces these bacteria levels in the mouth and can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Limit sugar and starches

Sugar and starch are consumed by cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth which produce acid. The acid, in turn, erodes tooth enamel and causes decay. For this reason, eat fewer foods such as cookies, candy, cake, ice cream soft drinks and pie. When you do eat sugary or starch based foods, brush your teeth immediately afterwards. Eating detergent foods such as apples, carrots or celery, can help clean sticky plaque as well. Detergent foods are crisp, crunchy or stiff and clean away debris in the mouth by chewing them.

Stop using tobacco

In addition to the many negative health consequences of smoking or using any tobacco product, your mouth and teeth are also subject to damage. The most serious are oral cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and esophagus. But, tobacco products can also cause gum disease, tooth discoloration and bad breath.

Pay attention to your mouth.

You are the first defense again oral disease. To prevent problems, look inside your mouth regularly to spot changes to your teeth, mouth and gums. Finding problems early and seeing a dentist promptly can limit negative health effects. Inspect your gums, tongue, the floor and roof of your mouth and the inside of your lips. Look for signs of growths, spots, sores and other changes like swelling. Inspect your teeth for chips, cracks, looseness and decay.

Get to know your dentist.

Your family dentist, just like your family physician can help keep your whole family healthy. If you don’t understand something your dentist is doing, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should also be able to have open, honest discussions about dental procedures, which dental problems are more urgent and which are of less concern.