411 on basic dental health

Chops. China. Chicklets. Your Grill. Whatever the name, your teeth need healthcare just as much as the rest of your body. 

Taking care of your teeth is the best way to prevent tooth decay.

What causes tooth decay? [Screetch. Halt. Wait. What IS tooth decay? Get it? Tooth. Decay. Gross. Okay, moving on.] Well basically, sticky colorless plaque is always forming on your teeth and that plaque contains bacteria.  When you eat sugary or starchy foods (think cookies, chips, pasta, fries) the bacteria in plaque makes acid and you have an ACID ATTACK on your teeth that lasts for about twenty minutes.  This is why some dentists recommend brushing after every meal.

What can you do to keep your teeth healthy? Here’s the deal:

  1. Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride strengthens your tooth enamel (the outer protective coating on your teeth) and thus makes them less likely yo decay.  How much toothpaste you ask? A pea-sized amount.
  2. Brush in small circular motions, not too hard and not too soft. Brushing too rigorously can damage your gums. Make sure you brush both the front and back of your teeth and especially the teeth in the wayyyy back of your mouth!
  3. Floss everyday. Think of it this way: floss only the teeth you want to keep.
  4. Cut down on snacks. The more snacks, the more acid attacks. If you eat sugary foods, eat them with a meal that contains non-sugary foods, and if you snack, try to choose healthy options like fruits and vegetables—lessening the acid attack factor.
  5. DON’T SMOKE OR USE TOBACCO. There’s no quicker way to get gum disease, oral cancers and brown rotting teeth, not to mention really stinky breath. 
  6. Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Brushing and flossing are great measures but they can’t handle the really tough plaque. A dentist needs to scrape off the plaque every so often. Plus, should you have any tooth decay, a dentist can treat it properly and stop it from spreading, taking over your whole mouth leaving you all-gums-granny.

Some other important safeguards:

  • If a tooth is broken or loose, see a dentist ASAP. If a tooth gets knocked out, find it, DON’T clean it, put it in a cup of milk (whole is best) and get to the dentist ASAP.
  • Always wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports, especially if you are in a vulnerable position such as goalie in soccer.
  • Don’t chew on pencils or any non-food objects! Don’t hold things in your mouth or try to open tough things with your mouth. (Side note: don’t chew on fingernails. Sometimes tiny micro-organisms get trapped under the nails, especially if you play outside in the dirt. Those micro-organisms could turn into worms in your intestines. Gross.)
  • Think twice about ORAL PIERCINGS. They can get in the way when talking and eating, can cause excessive DROOLING (we’re not kidding) and can cause infection, pain and swelling.

Braces? Besides making your smile more appealing (and who doesn’t love a great smile?), braces can help improve your overall dental health. Some orthodontic problems may make chewing difficult and other issues can promote cavities and gum disease.  Don’t let a year or two of braces deter you from taking the action if you can afford it.

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