Easy steps to have healthy teeth and gums

healthy teeth and gums
What are the most common oral health problems?

The most common oral health problems are cavities and gum disease.

Cavities: We are all at risk of tooth decay or cavities. (Cavities look like chalky white and/or brown holes on your teeth). Bacteria (germs) that naturally live in our mouths use sugar in food to make acids. Over time, the acids destroy the outside layer of your teeth. Then cavities and other tooth harm occur.

Gum diseases: Are infections caused by bacteria, along with mucus and other particles that form a sticky plaque on your teeth. Plaque that is left on teeth hardens and forms tartar. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. It causes red, swollen gums. It can also make the gums bleed easily.

Gingivitis can be caused by plaque buildup. And the longer plaque and tartar stay on teeth, the more harm they do. Most gingivitis can be treated with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleanings at the dentist's office. This form of gum disease does not lead to loss of bone or tissue around the teeth. But if it is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis. Then the gums pull away from the teeth and form infected "pockets." You may also lose supporting bone. If you have periodontitis, see your dentist for treatment. Otherwise, your teeth may loosen over time and need to be removed.

Your risk of gum disease is higher if you:
~ Smoke.
~ Have a disease such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS.
~ Use methamphetamine.

Easy steps to have healthy teeth and gums

1. Brush your teeth at least twice each day with fluoride toothpaste. Aim for first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Once a day, use floss or an interdental cleaner to remove food your toothbrush missed.

Make sure you: Drink water that contains added fluoride if you can. Fluoride protects against dental decay. Most public water systems in most parts of the world have added fluoride. Check with your community's water or health department to find out if there is fluoride in your water. You also may want to use a fluoride mouth rinse, along with brushing and flossing, to help prevent tooth decay.
Gently brush all sides of your teeth with a soft-bristled brush. Round and short back-and-forth strokes work best. Take time to brush along the gum line, and lightly brush your tongue to help remove plaque and food.

Ask your dentist or dental hygienist to show you the best way to floss your teeth.

Change your toothbrush every three months, or earlier if the toothbrush looks worn or the bristles spread out. A new toothbrush removes more plaque.

If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them before putting them back in the next morning.

2. Have a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy meals. Cut down on tooth decay by brushing after meals. Avoid snacking on sugary or starchy foods between meals.

Don't smoke. It raises your risk of gum disease, oral and throat cancers, and oral fungal infections. It also affects the color of your teeth and the smell of your breath.

Limit alcohol use to one drink per day for women. Heavy alcohol use raises your risk of oral and throat cancers. Using alcohol and tobacco together raises your risk of oral cancers more than using one alone.

Limit how much soda you drink. Even diet soda contains acids that can erode tooth enamel.

3. Get regular checkups: Have an oral exam once or twice a year. Your dentist may recommend more or fewer visits depending on your oral health. At most routine visits, the dentist and a dental hygienist will treat you. During regular checkups, dentists look for signs of diseases, infections, problems, injuries, and oral cancer.

See your dentist right away if:
»» Your gums bleed often
»» You see any red or white patches on the gums, tongue, or floor of the mouth
»» You have mouth or jaw pain that won't go away
»» You have sores that do not heal within two weeks
»» You have problems swallowing or chewing

Besides your dentist, there are other types of dental providers. Your dentist may send you to a specialist if you need extra care. Other providers include:

  • Dental hygienists: Members of the dental staff who clean gums and teeth and teach patients how to maintain good oral health.
  • Periodontists: Dentists who treat gum disease and place dental implants.
  • Oral surgeons: Dentists who operate on your mouth and supporting tissues.
  • Orthodontists: Dentists who straighten teeth and align jaws.
  • Endodontists: Dentists who perform root canals.
  • Prosthodontists: Dentists trained in restoring and replacing teeth.

4. Follow your dentist's advice: Your dentist may suggest ways to keep your mouth healthy. He or she can teach you how to properly floss or brush. Follow any recommended steps or treatments to keep your mouth healthy.

5. If you have another health problem, think about how it may affect your oral health:
For instance, if you take medicines that give you a dry mouth, ask your doctor or nurse if there are other drugs you can use. Have an oral exam before starting cancer treatment. And if you have diabetes, practice good oral hygiene to prevent gum disease.

Taking good care of your oral health can prevent disease in your mouth. Oral health can affect the health of your entire body. Good oral health does not just mean you have pretty teeth. Your whole mouth needs the care to be in good health.
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