Dental health refers to all aspects of the health and functioning of our mouth, particularly the teeth and gums, and is linked to our overall health in and well-being a number of ways.
The capacity to chew and swallow food is vital for obtaining nutrients needed in good health. Having poor dental health can have an effect on our speech and self-esteem, and dental diseases impose both financial and social burdens as treatment is costly.
Start children early
One in four young children develop signs of tooth decay before they start school, while half of all children between the ages of 12 and 15 have cavities. President of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association Caryn Solie says that dental care should begin just as soon as the child’s first tooth appears, which is usually around six months. She says that teeth can be wiped with a clean, damp cloth or a very soft brush.
Seal off trouble
A child’s molars come in at around the age of 6. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thin protective coverings can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth which can prevent decay. Sealants can significantly reduce caries.
Use enough – but not too much – fluoride
Fluoride strengthens enamel, making it less likely to decay. Talk to your dental professional who may suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth. Fluoride should not be used excessively on children. Too much can cause white spots on teeth.
Brush twice a day and floss daily
Gum disease and tooth decay are among the biggest problems for both adults and children. It is important to remember to change toothbrushes three to four times a year. Teenagers with braces may need to use special toothbrushes and other oral hygiene tools to brush their teeth.
Rinse or chew gum after meals
Rinsing with anti-bacterial rinse can help prevent decay and gum problems, while chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes away bacteria and neutralizes acid.
Block blows to teeth
Unsupervised recreational activities or sports can result in injuries. You can ask your dentist to make a custom-fitted mouth guard, or buy one at a sporting goods’ store that can be softened using hot water to form fit your mouth.
Don’t smoke. But if you have to, use smokeless tobacco
Tobacco stains teeth and significantly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
A healthy diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums. Some researchers believe that omega-3 fats may reduce inflammation, lowering the risk of gum disease, said Anthony M. Lacopino, DMD, PhD, Dean of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Dentistry.
Avoid sugary food
Steven E. Schonfeld, DDS, PhD, American Dental Association spokesperson, says that sugary drinks pose a threat because people tend to sip them, raising acidic levels over a long period of time. Carbonated drinks also increase acidity. Sticky candies, on the other hand, linger on teeth surfaces.
Make an appointment
Experts recommend a dental check-up every six months, more often if you have problems like gum disease. During routine exams, dentists or dental hygienists remove plaque build-up that you can’t brush or floss away and look for signs of decay. Regular dental exams also spot early signs of oral cancer, wear and tear from tooth grinding and interaction with medication.
There is actually an international association of dental professionals who use eco-friendly methods.
It is called the Eco-Dentistry Association.And it offers six tips for improving dental health – and the environment.For a start, it recommends that children should start early.
It says dentistry is a healing experience and should not be traumatic. Trauma – and the fear of dental chairs and drills – is best prevented when one takes children to dental appointments at a young age.
Teach children to turn off the water while brushing the teeth.
Teenagers should try using night guards. These devices prevent damage caused by clenching and grinding related to stress.
Choose the night guard created by your dentist specific to the teenager’s bite. Be sure that it is not made of plastics potentially detrimental to the environment.
Select the appropriate mouthwash for children – the one that doesn’t contain alcohol. This is important because a tooth tonic or mouthwash should be introduced as a dental routine during the teenage years – and alcohol is certainly an ingredient that is not part of this.
Then try digital imaging. Although the technology is not so widespread in the Philippines, it is available and used in some clinics like Dr. Smile at The Podium in the Ortigas business center in Pasig and at SM North Edsa, The Annex, Lower Ground Level, Q.C.
These diagnostic images use less radiation than radiographs (also called X-rays). The digital images don’t degrade over time and are easily sent by e-mail to you, your dentists and other appropriate specialists.
And while we are dwelling on the topic of what’s the right dental care for our children, I will take this opportunity to offer a few advice for adults as well. Mind you, these recommendations come from no less than the American Dental Association.
Eating – and crunching ice cubes – is a favorite pastime, as if the cubes are part of the snacks as well. For that matter, include candy and popcorn that hasn’t popped, or any other hard chewables that should not be chewed or crunched.
This is a no-no habit as it can fracture teeth.
Clean teeth the right way. This is done by ridding of food debris the space between the gumline and the point where gum attaches to the tooth. Turn the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle in order for the bristles to reach out-of-the-way places.
Use dental floss in order to reach particularly deep pockets. Tie a single or double knot in the floss to reach food particles.
When flossing the back teeth, curve the thread around the tooth and push it underneath the gumline.
Change toothbrush regularly. A change is due when the outer bristles of the brush start to flare or look like overgrown bush instead of the straight lines they were on during first use.
Last but not least, stop smoking. Smoking is so destructive to teeth and gums that many gum specialists in the United States won’t even treat smokers with dental problems because they don’t respond well to treatment.
For more information, visit the American Dental Association’s Web site: ada.org.
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the Dean of the College of Dentistry, National University, President/CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail email@example.com or text 0917-8591515.