Maintaining proper dental hygiene does not need extensive time and effort, and it’s fairly easy to protect your teeth and gums from disease and decay if you adopt everyday habits that minimize the build-up of plaque in your mouth.
If there are children, adolescents or senior members in your family, you need to take some additional steps aside from the regular brushing routine, so that your loved ones won’t have to deal with dental problems every now and then.
Here are 17 ways to protect and enhance your family’s oral health and minimize visits to the dentist.
Brush for at least two minutes
While you may have successfully got your children into the habit of brushing twice daily, how long they actually brush their teeth determines how clean the teeth can get. Ensure that brushing is not reduced to a mere chore. Teach your children the proper way to brush and help them understand why they must spend 90 seconds to two minutes in the process.
The goal is to remove all food particles from the mouth, which harbor bacteria and cause cavities.
Don’t forget the floss
Flossing is an essential step in your oral care routine. It does what your toothbrush cannot do—reach the crevices and gaps between your teeth to remove plaque. The good news is that flossing just once daily can remove plaque, preventing it from hardening into tartar and developing into gum disease.
If you have young children or if anyone in your family has sensitive gums (which makes them fear flossing), visit your dentist together to learn the right way to floss.
Don’t miss dental appointments
When it comes to protecting your teeth and gums, experts say that prevention is better than care. Regular dental cleanings and check-ups with a trusted dentist can nip oral health problems in the bud. Small dental issues are easier and cheaper to treat compared to serious problems, which is why it’s important that no one in your family misses their dental checkups.
Make time to see your dentist regularly no matter how busy you are—it will save you hundreds of dollars in the long term.
Don’t brush vigorously
Far too many people unknowingly use excessive force when brushing their teeth, not knowing that it only takes gentle but thorough brushing to remove food particles and bacteria. In addition, vigorous brushing or brushing for too long damages the protective top layer of enamel, exposing the inner layer called dentin.
Much of the tooth sensitivity and pain you experience is caused because the enamel on your teeth has worn off and the dentin layer is exposed.
Cut down on sugar
Reduce your consumption of sugar as a family; set up an example for your children and show them how eating too much sugar could damage their teeth and gums. You can seriously bring down the risk of tooth decay by limiting your intake of sugar, say experts.
Make firm rules about brushing after every meal, and especially after eating sugary foods such as sodas, cookies, chocolates, candies, breakfast cereals and starch-rich products (such as breads and crackers). While fruits also contain sugar, they’re not as harmful to your teeth and gums. Regardless, develop the habit of brushing after eating anything sweet.
Take your one-year-old to the dentist
Unlike popular belief, your little one should be taken for their first dental checkup either when the first tooth appears or when the child turns a year old. Getting routine dental check-ups in the early years will not only help prevent potential problems, it will also familiarize your child with the surroundings of the dental clinic.
Don’t ignore the big problems
Dental problems in children, such as misaligned teeth, broken teeth, and gum problems can get worse as they grow if not treated in time. Whether it’s an aching tooth, a bleeding gum or any other problem that hints at a bigger issue, see your dentist at the earliest.
Getting timely medical treatment is really the only way to safeguard your family’s dental health.
Get treatment for dry mouth
Dry mouth is a condition that results from decrease in production of saliva by the salivary glands in your mouth. Dry mouth can occur from a variety of causes, from anxiety and aging to an unrelated health condition. If you constantly experience dry mouth, see your dentist to rule out a serious health problem. Based on the diagnosis, your doctor will advise treatment to increase the production of saliva.
Wear a mouth guard for athletic activity
If a child or adolescent in the family is into sports, inculcate the habit of wearing a mouth guard during sports activities, as well as when biking or doing other activities that risk injury to the mouth. Statistics show that dental injuries are the most common type of facial injuries caused during sports activities. They can result in fractures or even displacement of the tooth from its socket.
Serious orofacial injuries can be easily avoided by using a store-bought or custom-made mouth guard.
Don’t ignore clenching
The subconscious habit of teeth clenching or teeth grinding can cause irreparable harm to your teeth. It can affect both adults and children, but taking timely measures can protect the teeth against severe damage.
Visit your family dentist for advice, who may recommend using a night guard if you experience consistent jaw movement when sleeping. You may take some time getting used to it, but it is an effective way to prevent jaw pain and shield your teeth from further damage.
Take gum problems seriously
Bleeding or swollen gums need your immediate attention as they could have a bigger underlying problem, such as gum disease. The right treatment can arrest the bacterial infection before it advances to a stage that requires surgery.
As plaque and tartar formation is the primary cause of gum disease, at home you can control gum disease with regular flossing, brushing twice daily and using an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
Stop or limit smoking
Tobacco is one of the worst enemies of your teeth and gums—smoking or chewing tobacco not only discolors your teeth, it also weakens them, damages the enamel, and makes you prone to gum disease and oral cancer.
In addition, as smoking weakens your immunity, it makes it difficult for your body to fight infections, which is why smokers with gum infections take longer to heal.
Treat your teeth as a nonrenewable asset
That’s what your teeth really are—an invaluable asset that cannot be replaced once lost. While children can still get new teeth once they lose their milk teeth, adult teeth don’t grow back, and dental implants can be expensive.
Once you start viewing your teeth as an irreplaceable gift from nature, you will find it extremely easy to take care of them.
Take cavities seriously
The best thing about early detection of tooth decay or cavities is that they can be fixed without extensive treatment. If during a routine checkup your dentist discovers cavities, make sure to have the problem fixed at the earliest before the infection reaches the root of your tooth and requires a root canal treatment (RCT).
Your doctor will clean the cavity and fill it with dental filling—and that’s it, you’re done. For severe tooth decay, your doctor may need to do an RCT and then place a crown over the damaged tooth.
Don’t ignore bad breath
Many people don’t realize they have bad breath, largely because they believe if they’re brushing well and taking the time to rinse their mouth after every meal, they’re taking good care of their oral health and there’s no reason they could have foul breath.
While poor oral hygiene is a common factor for bad breath, chronic bad breath is often caused by an underlying condition. From bronchitis to gastrointestinal disease to diabetes, several unrelated health conditions can give your bad breath. Visit your dentist for a through oral examination and a tailored treatment plan specific to your needs.
Avoid these habits
A great way to have healthy teeth is to avoid dental habits that damage teeth and gums. For instance, biting your nails damages tooth enamel, making your teeth prone to cavities. Similarly, avoid using your teeth as a bottle opener or to tear packets or hold things. These seemingly insignificant everyday habits can have a lasting impact on the strength of your teeth.
Take senior family members for dental checkups
Aging brings a host of dental problems. Seniors with diabetes, for instance, are at a higher risk of developing gum problems. In addition, advanced age makes it difficult for the elderly to take proper care of their teeth, which could result in tooth decay that goes undetected for a long time.
The more a dental problem progresses, the more challenging will be its treatment and subsequent recovery for an aged person. Ensuring regular dental checkups for your elderly parents or in-laws can help minimize the risk of serious dental health issues.