Last year, I vowed to start taking better care of myself by scheduling all those checkups I had been putting off or flat out ignoring.
For a list of all the tests and checkups women should be getting, click here.
When I finally went to the dentist, it had been over ten years since my last visit. I have absolutely no excuse. I had dental insurance most of that time, but felt I was doing enough by brushing once a day and flossing here and there. I was VERY wrong.
My ‘checkup’ turned into five very painful and long visits to just get my teeth cleaned and a couple of spots filled. My re-education on the importance of oral health was not pleasant at all.
We have billions of bacteria swimming around in our mouths at any time. Bacteria can build up into plaque. Unchecked, plaque causes tooth decay and bad breath, then can progress into gum disease eventually becoming periodontitis where you actually begin to lose bone and tissue around your teeth. An unhealthy mouth can also negatively affect your overall health leading to increased risk for stroke or heart attack.
So with Dentist Day coming up on March 6th, it seemed an appropriate time to go over the specifics regarding good oral hygiene.
At minimum, you should be brushing twice a day; morning and before bed. Overachievers should be brushing after every meal.
Using a soft bristled brush make sure you go at a 45 degree angle where the teeth meet the gumline in both the front and back of your teeth. Then brush the front and tops and back of the teeth in a circular motion. To get behind the teeth up front turn your brush vertical and move it up and down in short strokes. Don’t forget to brush your tongue as bacteria are living there as well.
An electric toothbrush is best, but not necessary. Make sure you are spending at least 30 seconds on each quadrant of your mouth.
Getting the gumline clean prevents gum disease and keeping the teeth clean will protect against cavities.
Make sure your toothpaste has fluoride in it because fluoride prevents tooth decay. There has been some scrutiny about adverse health effects when digesting too much fluoride, but just brushing with a fluoride toothpaste will not get you into this range.
Floss at least once a day. Wiggle the floss in between each tooth instead pulling it straight down and right back up. This will loosen up anything caught between the teeth.
Flossing is equally important to your oral health as brushing, so don’t skip it!
Rinse your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash at least once a day. This will help keep the bacteria at a controllable level.
Minimizing sugary and starchy foods will also keep bacteria under control. Limit intake of sugary drinks and acidic foods as they wear down tooth enamel. Drinking through a straw can lessen the impact on your teeth.
Alcohol causes dehydration in the body and dries out the mouth. A dry mouth increases tooth decay and gum disease.
In addition to causing discoloration of your teeth, smoking, like alcohol, dries out the mouth. It also causes gums to pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets where bacteria and plaque can accelerate gum disease.
Visit the Dentist
Make twice a year visits to your dentist. They will be able to spot signs of a problem and advise you on the best ways to keep your teeth healthy and strong.
I was very excited when I was finally able to get my dentist visits back down to twice a year. So heed my warning! Brush, floss and visit the dentist REGULARLY. I also didn’t realize how weak my arm muscles were until I started brushing my teeth for the required amount of time.