No one likes going for a checkup with their dentist and hearing those three little words: “this needs work”. There’s a reason we use the expression “like pulling teeth” to refer to unpleasant situations. Fortunately the modern world makes it easy to take care of our teeth and gums so that we can keep the dental work to a minimum and maybe even avoid it altogether.
7) Get your calcium
This is one you’ve been hearing since you were a kid. Calcium is the main component of teeth and jaw bones so it’s important to get enough of it every day. One of the neat things about calcium is that in addition to getting into your body via digestion and the bloodstream, your saliva actually contains calcium and delivers it to your teeth for crystallisation. Talk about service.
6) Get regular cleanings
Brushing and flossing are every important, but there are some things a toothbrush just can’t do. Professional dental tools like the one your hygienist uses are more powerful than anything you could buy in the drug store, and the scrapers they use to get the plaque out from under your gums are too dangerous to use on your own. A hygienist can get those hard to reach places and the fluoride treatment they give, which is not available over the counter can help to recrystallise weakened enamel and prevent cavities. And getting regular checks by your dentist will catch problems early, putting you less at risk for invasive oral surgery.
5) Wear a mouth guard
If you play sports, a mouth guard is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can own. Your dentist can make you one or you can get a self-customisable one from your drugstore. Even in sports that don’t use hard projectiles your teeth are at risk. If there is a chance of wiping out or getting clobbered in your sport of choice, there is a chance of breaking or losing teeth. A helmet can also protect against tooth damage. Helmets absorb a lot of shock when they hit the pavement, shock that would otherwise pass through your skull and potentially affect your teeth. Although, if you hit your head that hard without a helmet, broken teeth would be the least of your problems. A helmet with a full cage is safest and can prevent projectiles like pucks, balls, and bats from picking off your pearly whites. And if you think face protection isn’t cool, remember Jacques Plante who was cool enough to stand up to an entire hockey league in the name of common sense.
4) Just floss already
We have all had the experience of making a dental appointment then frantically flossing on the week leading up to it so that we don’t get shamed by or hygienist. Flossing can be annoying, messy, and inconvenient, but it’s just as if not more important than brushing. Not only does dental floss remove large chunks of debris from between our teeth, it also scrapes away plaque and tartar in places where a toothbrush can’t reach. No foaming toothpaste or electric spinning brush can outdo that thin, waxy string. If twisting floss around your fingers isn’t your thing, there are floss sticks that can make flossing just as easy as brushing.
3) Get braces if you need them
In many cases, braces are purely cosmetic. If left to develop on their own some teeth may become crooked, but not unhealthy. However in some cases, badly crooked teeth can cause grinding, pushing, cracking, and breaking. In the long run, braces may actually be the less painful, less expensive choice. And braces aren’t just for kids. Our teeth continue to grow and shift throughout our lifetimes and some adults may find themselves in need of an adjustment. Talk to your dentist when making any decisions about orthodontic correction. They may be able to project the course your teeth are on and tell you if braces would be more than just a cosmetic choice for you.
2) Maintain healthy mouth flora
Your mouth is full of bacteria –hundreds of different strains- and not all of them are bad. A healthy mouth is an ecosystem of microorganisms. Some of these bugs are the ones that eat the leftover sugar in your mouth and create acidic waste products that break down enamel, and those are the ones you want to clear out of there. Other bacteria actually contribute to a healthy mouth by carrying out functions that balance your oral chemistry. These are known as probiotic bacteria like the ones found in your gut. Unfortunately when you brush away the bad bacteria from your oral ecosystem, the good ones go along for the ride. That’s why it’s important to eat foods that contain probiotic bacteria like yogurt and pickled vegetables. Probiotics: not just for intestines anymore!
1) Be careful with home whitening
Your dentist can provide you with a safe whitening treatment for a smile that is both healthy and dazzling, but some over the counter whitening products may take off more than just your stains. Some whitening pastes and kits have been known to strip enamel and weaken teeth beyond repair. Always research any oral hygiene product carefully before using it and when in doubt, ask your dentist.
These tips should help keep the drill out of your mouth, but there’s no better prevention than frequent checkups. Seeing your dentist doesn’t have to mean bad news, and if you take care of your teeth the prognosis will always be positive.