Published March 16, 2012
Oral health problems such as cavities and gum disease are common but preventable for the most part. Many dental procedures aren’t painful, but a simple examination can sometimes feel stressful.
Here are five ways to prevent dental problems before they start:
1. Brushing and flossing
The American Dental Association recommends gently brushing twice a day, each time for around two minutes, using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to brush the front, top and back of each tooth, as well as your tongue. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or when the bristles begin to fray. Easily dismissed, flossing should be done daily to help remove food particles that the toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Never underestimate the importance of flossing because it clears food from hard-to-reach areas and removes bacteria that leads to tooth decay. When you floss, take an 18-inch long piece of string between your thumb and index finger. Start with your lower front teeth, then move to the upper front teeth, and finally work your way around the rest of your mouth. A tongue scraper can also remove bacteria build-up and food debris.
2. Visit your dentist regularly
Regular cleanings and checkups by a dentist can significantly help prevent dental problems. Don’t wait until you have a toothache to schedule an appointment. Dentists recommend you have a regular cleaning done every six months. A professional cleaning will remove the plaque that can develop, despite regular brushing and flossing. A dental hygienist will also reach plaque in difficult-to-reach areas missed during daily bushing. A dentist will also take X-rays to make sure you have no cavities.The earlier a problem is detected, the more effective treatment will be. Make sure your insurance company covers your visit, and check the details of your coverage before having procedures done.
Sugary foods can have an unhealthy impact on your teeth. You should eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and limit snacks between meals. Also, make sure you’re getting enough calcium from foods like milk, yogurt and cheese. Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco, and if you’re taking medications, make sure to ask your doctor if they can harm your teeth in any way. Certain medications can affect the production of saliva and cause dry mouth.
4. Gum disease
If your gums are puffy, red or tender, see your dentist right away. You may have gingivitis. Also make an appointment if your gums bleed excessively when you floss. A dentist will be able to determine if you have gum disease, oral cancer or tooth decay.
If your teeth are crooked, you may want to consider braces to straighten your teeth because misaligned teeth are harder to clean and thus more likely to have cavities. Crooked teeth might also cause you pain and discomfort in the future.