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10 steps to keep your teeth and gums healthy: One may surprise you

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Healthy smile

If you want to keep a healthy smile and avoid the high cost of dental procedures, here are 10 ways to avoid rotten teeth from cavities, tooth loss from gum disease and other dental problems. One way to keep your teeth and gums healthy might surprise you. It is so important, yet something very few people do.


Brush and floss regularly . When we forget to floss or just get lazy, bacteria build up between the teeth. But flossing isn't just about getting rid of bacteria. When we clean between the teeth we’re also removing plaque that breeds bacteria around the gums. Flossing should be a routine part of maintaining a healthy mouth. It’s important to remove plaque regularly to avoid periodontal disease and bone loss that can lead to tooth loss, the need for bridges, dentures, tooth extractions or teeth implants that most of us have trouble affording – not to mention the procedures are painful.

Just brushing your teeth, which should be done twice a day and after eating sticky sweet foods, won’t remove food particles from between the teeth. When you do brush, spend 30-seconds on each quadrant of your mouth. Don't short-change your teeth by being in a hurry. You should spend two minutes brushing your teeth.

Also, don't forget to change your toothbrush frequently. Put it in a protected place to avoid bacteria that can get on the bristles from contaminated bathroom surfaces and air-borne germs.

Cut down on sweets. The worst thing you can do for your teeth is overindulge in sugary treats including soft drinks. Bacteria thrive on sugar. When we eat too much, or consume high fructose sodas and other beverages, bacteria turns the sugar to acid. The result can lead to rotten teeth. If you do eat sugary snacks, make sure you brush your teeth afterwards to

Eat plenty of crunchy fruits and vegetables. Carrots, apples, cucumbers are all good ‘natural toothbrushes’. Fruits contain sugar, but unlike processes sugar, they are good for dental health. Plus, we all know eating fruits and veggies are good for overall health and can lower the chances of developing other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables also promote saliva that has natural healing properties to help keep our mouths germ free and our breath smelling good. Good overall health is also linked to good dental health, making a healthy diet, combined with exercise, limited alcohol intake and avoidance of illicit drugs important.

Go to the dentist regularly. Gingivitis and periodontal disease can sneak up on you. Once periodontal disease develops, it is difficult, though not impossible to treat. Health risks linked to periodontal disease include risk of stroke, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia, kidney disease, cancer and diabetes, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

Eat plenty of low-fat foods with calcium. Eating low fat dairy or soy products fortified with calcium can lower our risk of gum disease and help keep the teeth strong. Studies show our teeth need calcium, in addition to adequate vitamin D for optimal dental health.

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Don’t smoke. Smokers are shown to have a two to three higher risk of gum disease that could make your teeth fall out, compared to non-smokers. Continuing to smoke while you are being treated for periodontal disease is also associated with unsuccessful treatment.

Use a mouth rinse regularly. Listerine mouth wash was shown in a study to completely kill germs in the mouth quickly, including Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Rinsing regularly is especially important as we get older, given the link to mouth bacteria and pneumonia. Keeping your mouth germ free by rinsing with a mouthwash can help respiratory health. Look for the American Dental Association seal of approval on your mouth rinse to ensure you’re not wasting your money.

Use a tongue scraper. Dental experts say approximately 50 percent of bacteria in the mouth live on our tongue. Most people completely forget about how important it is to scrape the tongue after flossing and brushing – a ritual that dates back to Native American culture. Dr. Michael Formenius , a Swedish dental practitioners, says once you start brushing your tongue you will never want to stop. Scraping the tongue removes bacteria, fungus, and debris and rejuvenates the cells on the tongue. If you're surprised that brushing the tongue is so important, you're probably not alone. Most people just don't do it.

Drink unsweetened green tea. Drinking green tea as shown in a 2009 study to be associated with lower risk of developing periodontal disease. The popular beverage might even provide smokers with added protection from mouth cancer.

Use a WaterPik. A USC study shows the device removes biofilm that leads to tooth decay or rot. Plaque on the teeth that could not be seen was removed with the device, seen on electron microscopy. The device was shown to remove 99.9 percent of biofilm that can lead to dental health problems.

Healthy gums and being diligent about cavities are the keys to healthy teeth and a beautiful smile. Practice these 10 steps regularly to ensure your teeth and surrounding tissues stay healthy throughout life. The benefit is less time in the dental chair, fewer costly dental procedures, the joy of keeping all of your own teeth and lower risk of a variety of diseases.

Resources: American Dental Association
PubMed: Smoking-attributable periodontitis in the United States: findings from NHANES III. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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