Many of us can’t think of anything that fills us with more dread than a trip to the dentist. But chronic dental problems can be both preventable and avoidable.
Follow these five steps to help pave the way for good dental health:
1. A clean mouth is a healthy mouth. Gently brush twice a day for about two minutes, making sure to brush the front, top and back of each tooth, as well as your tongue. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Never underestimate flossing, which clears food from hard-to-reach areas, and removes bacteria. Use a tongue scraper to remove built-up bacteria and food debris.
2. Don’t wait until you have a toothache to visit your dentist. Get a regular cleaning every six months to remove plaque from areas missed during daily brushing. Your dentist also will take X-rays, because the earlier a problem is detected, the more effective treatment will be.
3. Your teeth are what you eat. Your teeth will thank you for a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, limited between-meal snacks and calcium from milk, yogurt and cheese. Sugary foods and tobacco are big no-nos. Finally, if you’re taking medications, ask your doctor if they can harm your teeth in any way.
4. Watch out for signs of gum disease. If your gums are puffy, red or tender or bleed when you floss, see your dentist immediately. Your dentist can determine if you have gingivitis, gum disease, oral cancer, or tooth decay.
5. Braces can help. You may want to consider braces because misaligned teeth are harder to clean and are more likely to have cavities. Crooked teeth also can cause you pain and discomfort in the future.