Brushing and Beyond: 5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Family’s Oral Health
You want to do everything you can to boost your family’s oral health and protect your family’s health and wellbeing. You want to keep them from pain and discomfort, which includes keeping their smiles bright, sparkling, and healthy.
Here are 5 easy ways to boost your family’s oral health.
1. Lead by example.
Model proper dental hygiene habits for the rest of your family to follow. Brush for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristle brush twice each day. Floss every day to thoroughly clean the surfaces between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Use a tongue cleaner to gently scrape down the length of the tongue to remove bacteria and debris that may be lingering there.
It’s important to regularly remove plaque from the surface of the teeth because the bacteria that make up plaque produce acids as they feed off of the simple carbohydrates and sugars in the foods we consume. These acids break down the important protective enamel layer of our teeth.
Additionally, when allowed to remain on the surface of the teeth, plaque hardens into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. Tartar irritates the gums, causing them to pull away from the surface of the tooth and begin receding. As they recede, they create open pockets that are susceptible to collecting bacteria and developing an infection.
This is why regular dental cleanings, even when there doesn’t seem to be something “wrong,” is so crucial to maintaining oral health. During a routine cleaning, the dental team removes any plaque and tartar buildup, while also checking for any early signs of decay or infection.
2. Start early.
To boost your family’s oral health, give them the best chance at optimum oral health by giving them an early start. Start a regular dental routine at home with your baby by gently wiping their gums with a warm, moist cloth or a soft silicone-bristle brush after eating. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice to prevent early decay from developing.
Maintaining healthy primary teeth is critical. These teeth may be temporary, but their health affects the development of your child’s entire mouth, including permanent teeth. Your child should have their first visit with the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts or when they turn one year of age, whichever happens first.
As teeth begin to erupt, start brushing each morning and night with a soft-bristled infant toothbrush. Children younger than three should brush with no more than a smear of fluoridated toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. It isn’t until the age of two or three that children gain full control of their swallow reflex. Use of fluoride toothpaste is important to strengthen the enamel of newly developing teeth but should be used in the recommended amounts to avoid the risk of fluorosis or, in extreme cases of overuse, poisoning.
3. Eat a balanced diet.
Drink tap water if your public supply is fluoridated. Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, becomes a part of and, as a result, strengthens the enamel layer of your teeth through regular exposure. Fluoride is better able to resist damage caused by acids than the other minerals that make up your enamel. In fact, just by adding fluoride to public water supplies, the United States has reduced cavities in children and adults by 25%!
Diabetes, heart disease, and periodontitis (gum disease) are all closely linked. All three can also be prevented, if not managed, through a healthy diet that’s low in sugar.
Limiting consumption of sugar-laden treats and acidic beverages, like soft drinks, also reduces your risk of developing decay, and goes a long way in boosting your family’s oral health. Hopefully, by reducing these types of foods, you make more room on your plate for fruits and vegetables. Doing so ensures that you get the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain a strong, healthy body and mouth. It also means you are eating more of the crunchy, fibrous produce that helps to clean teeth of plaque, while also strengthening the jawbone.
4. Protect your children’s teeth.
Sealants are bonded to the tops of molars to protect children’s teeth from developing cavities in the hard-to-reach nooks of the chewing surface. When teeth first erupt to the surface, they are especially vulnerable to decay, as they have not yet been strengthened by fluoride.
Children active in sports should wear a mouth guard each time they play to prevent their teeth from becoming fractured or dislodged. A custom-fitted mouth guard will provide the best fit and protection. A boil and bite mouth guard is also an option, but they should be made carefully to ensure a proper fit. Whichever mouth guard you choose, it should be replaced each season. Not only do they become significantly worn from use, but your child’s mouth is continuously changing and shifting as they grow.
5. Quit bad habits.
Just as you should lead by example by modeling proper dental hygiene habits for your family, you should also model behavior by what you don’t do. If you have the habit of nail biting, chewing ice, or using your teeth as tools, you are putting your teeth at risk of becoming chipped, cracked, or otherwise fractured. Nail biting also introduces bacteria to the mouth that can lead to infection, especially if the jagged edge of a nail tears the gum tissue.
To break your habit, start by noticing it and creating a list of what triggers the urge. Work on managing each trigger one at a time by either removing them altogether or developing a healthy replacement habit.