Simple tips to keep your mouth healthy and smile ready
By Deborah Dittner
Since we are all different, we each require specific measures to make sure our dental health is smile ready. Your dentist is part of your health care team to address your specific needs, so please make sure you keep your regularly scheduled appointments.
How can you take the best care of your mouth in between regular dental cleanings and visits? By creating a healthy balance of bacteria. Yes, your mouth is full of bacteria – some good and some bad. The bad bacteria can erode teeth and contribute to gum disease and when overly abundant can cause dental decay and periodontal disease. The good bacteria help to utilize vitamins efficiently and prevent pathogens from entering the body.
Let’s begin by using a tongue scraper in the morning before brushing your teeth. Consider purchasing a stainless-steel tongue scraper (not plastic) as the metal ones are easier to clean and won’t chip. By using a tongue scraper, you help in removing harmful toxins and bacteria creating a healthier environment in your mouth.
Brush your teeth at least twice daily for approximately two minutes. Use a soft bristle brush at a 45-degree angle. This method will adequately remove the bacteria causing a plaque buildup and decay. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three months as the bristles wear down and bacteria from your mouth cling to the bristles. If you already have gum disease you will need to replace your toothbrush more frequently approximately every four to six weeks. If you have been sick or have had a strep infection of the throat, you will need to replace your toothbrush after the illness. You mustn’t forget to floss. Flossing removes food particles and bacteria that get stuck between your teeth. Some brands have added tea tree oil (antimicrobial) or coconut oil.
If you have bleeding gums, you may be brushing too hard or using a hard bristle brush. Bleeding gums can also be caused by improper flossing which you can review with your dentist. Worst case scenario, bleeding gums can be a sign of gum disease so make sure to talk with your dentist.
In addition to brushing and flossing, consider oil pulling. Studies have shown that oil pulling decreases the development of plaque and plaque-induced gingivitis in the mouth. Coconut or sesame oil is swished around in the mouth for 10 to 20 minutes daily. Consider oil pulling while taking a shower to accomplish two tasks at once. Do not swallow and never spit the oils down the drain but into a waste basket. The oils distribute vitamins and lauric acid (anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties) while “pulling” bad bacteria from the mouth.
Adding salt water gargles to your mouth care helps to alkalize your mouth decreasing the number of bacteria and reducing inflammation. Gargle with 8 ounces of warm water and a quarter teaspoon of salt added and mixed well.
If you drink lemon water or apple cider vinegar in water in the morning, consider using a straw. A straw helps to protect your teeth and gums from the acid.
A diet consisting of whole nutrient dense foods is essential as these foods affect your body’s immune system fighting against infection. Gum (periodontal) disease starts out as an infection and poor nutrition decreases the body’s capability to take action against it. Foods that are low in sugar and carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits, lean clean protein and nuts chewed well not only take care of the body but also the teeth.
Vitamin deficiencies put your teeth and your overall health at risk. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is important during pregnancy to prevent enamel hypoplasia in the child. Other vitamin deficiencies such as B vitamins, iron and folate have been linked to oral ulcerations and painful fissures at the corners of the mouth. Consult with your primary health care provider and ask for blood work to help determine any deficiencies and consider supplementation.
At all times you should try to boost your overall health and wellness. These simple steps for mouth care will benefit not only your body but also help create a beautiful smile.
Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.