As someone who spent six years (that’s 30 percent of my life at this point) in braces, with at least two of those wearing headgear, I take my dental health seriously. I have a retainer I wear religiously and recently discovered a DIY tooth powder to replace conventional toothpaste. Since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, I’ve decided to share some important tips because stellar dental hygiene isn’t just for children.
National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) started in Cleveland, Ohio, as a one-day observance in 1941. Seventy-seven years later it is a nationally recognized, monthlong event spreading awareness and information about the benefits of good oral health and how to achieve it.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.6 percent of children 5-19 have untreated dental cavities and 31.6 percent of adults ages 20-44 have untreated dental cavities.
Here are some steps you can take to beat those statistics:
1. Eat a balanced diet. Weston A. Price, dentist and author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, researched the connection between diet and oral health and came to the conclusion that nutrition is a large factor in determining oral health. Specifically, the presence of enough minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. Teeth, like our other bones, have the power to rebuild and heal themselves. Getting the right nutrients will help them do just that.
2. Drink plenty of water. Soda, juice and sports drinks taste great but they leave unwanted sugar on your teeth, causing the bacteria in your mouth to attack the sugar, producing acid that wears away the enamel. Water dilutes the acids produced by bacteria and prevents dry mouth, which can also lead to tooth decay. Never underestimate the importance of staying hydrated.
3. Brush twice a day. Plaque buildup can lead to sensitive gums, gum disease and Gingivitis. Brushing twice a day removes the plaque and stains from your teeth, protects your gums and lets your teeth remineralize.
Left: (before) first grade piano concert, 2003
Right: (after braces) senior prom, 2014
4. Floss at least once a day. Just as important as brushing, flossing does 40 percent of the work required to remove sticky bacteria from your teeth and gums. While there isn’t necessarily any immediate gratification from flossing, people who take good care of their teeth by brushing and flossing maintain the bones of their teeth and jaw better, looking more youthful as they age.
5. Replace your toothbrush. Dentists suggest you replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months for a few reasons. The longer you use your toothbrush, the more frayed the bristles will get and the less effective it will be. This may seem like an expensive habit to be in but a small cost now is nothing compared to the cost of treating gum disease or worse.
6. Visit the dentist or dental hygienist regularly. Because gum disease and cavities are preventable, it’s recommended you visit the dentist twice a year. Seeing a dentist regularly will help you stay on top of your oral hygiene. Prevention is the best cure!
If you take care of your teeth, they will last a lifetime.