Maintaining good dental health for everyone in your family is very important. Besides being quite unsightly, dental problems can be painful and very expensive to fix, which is why good dental health starts with prevention. But with so much health information available, how do you know where to begin?
From practicing healthy oral hygiene to visiting the dentist, this article will cover everything you need to know about good dental health. To find out how to keep your family’s teeth in perfect condition, keep reading.
Healthy Dental Habits
For the first section in this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about good dental care at home.
Brushing Your Teeth
Everyone knows that brushing your teeth is important, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t know how to brush correctly.
For starters, you should be brushing your teeth at least twice per day: once right before bed, and the other time whenever it suits you (most people choose first thing in the morning). The toothbrush you use should have either medium or soft bristles. Toothbrushes with firm bristles can cause damage to your gums. On that note, be sure and brush softly so you don’t hurt your gums or damage the protective enamel on your teeth.
Most dentists recommend that you use toothpaste that contains fluoride. For adults, your toothpaste should be at least 1,350 ppm. You need to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste every time you brush.
When you brush your teeth, try to spend around two minutes doing it. Two minutes is longer than it sounds, and it’s definitely longer than it feels, so you should consider using a kitchen timer to make sure you’re brushing for long enough. Be careful to brush all the surfaces of your teeth, especially on the back of your front teeth, which can be easy to miss.
After you brush your teeth, you might not want to rinse your mouth using water, as this can dilute the fluoride and make it less effective. If you use mouthwash, do it at some other time in the day.
Using Dental Floss
Many people believe that flossing isn’t important, but your local dentist would be quick to tell you otherwise. In fact, flossing is quite important, because simply brushing by itself doesn’t clean in the gaps between your teeth. This is especially significant if your teeth are particularly close together, with only very small gaps between them.
By using dental floss regularly, you’ll successfully remove plaque from along your gum line. Plaque begins turning into tartar within 24 to 72 hours, which in turn can cause staining and discoloration to your teeth.
The best time to floss is before you brush your teeth. That way the plaque you’ve loosened up will come off more easily with your brush. It’s a good idea to do this at night, so that you remove all the plaque that developed over the day.
You can use an interdental brush instead of dental floss, as it works in the same way. If you have larger gaps between your teeth than most people, an interdental brush may be more effective for you. Whichever method you choose, you’ll want to make around 10 strokes between each tooth, going up and down, from the top of your teeth to your gums and back.
Eating for Good Dental Health
Eating nutritious foods is important for good dental health. Interestingly, having good dental health is also important for eating nutritious foods: there’s actually a correlation between having sturdy, pain-free teeth and eating healthier foods. So that means nutrition for dental health can become the good kind of a vicious cycle, where eating well leads to better health, leading back to eating well.
But what nutrients are specifically necessary for good dental health?
Protein contributes to immune function, which fights off oral diseases, and tooth structure. Calcium also contributes to tooth structure, as well as enamel remineralization, which is particularly important for people with weak or worn-out enamel. Zinc, iron, antioxidants, omega-3 fats, and all the major vitamins are also integral for good dental health.
We could go into more detail, but the great thing about nutrition is that it’s really pretty simple. You already know how to eat well: eat sugars and processed foods in moderation, prioritize vegetables and fruits, and focus on lean meats. The diet advice that you get for healthy skin and weight apply equally to healthy teeth and gums, because the foods that contribute to healthy skin also contribute to a healthy mouth.
However, when it comes to good dental health, there is one thing you should try to avoid in particular: sugary drinks. Drinking beverages with high sugar content is bad for your teeth, because the sugar gets washed all over your mouth, and the residue left behind causes tooth decay. Eating sugary foods isn’t great either, but at least the sugar is less likely to stick to your teeth everywhere and accelerate decay. Soda, sugary coffee, and most fruit juice is high in sugar content of one kind or another, so these should be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether.
Drink Plenty of Water
Did you know that water is good for your teeth?
And it’s not just because water is a healthier alternative to sugary juice and soda, although that’s part of it. Besides literally cleaning your mouth with every sip you take, water helps you replenish saliva, which is your mouth’s first defense against tooth decay. This is because drinking plenty of water helps prevent dry mouth disease, which diminishes saliva production.
Most experts claim that fluoridated water helps strengthen your teeth and fight off cavities. If your drinking water contains fluoride, this may be another benefit of drinking water for dental health.
When discussing the health benefits of water, it’s important to consider the quality of the tap water in your home. Getting plumbing repairs done may not seem to have anything to do with good dental health, but it can — at least if your water filter is broken.
For your drinking water to give you the most benefits possible, it needs to be free of toxins and chemicals. For that reason, using a water treatment system that filters and purifies your home’s water is a good idea, especially if you often drink it straight from the tap. This is especially important if your home is connected to a well or any other water source that isn’t treated or monitored closely. That way you can be sure the water you’re drinking won’t come with any nasty side effects.
Dentists and Orthodontists
Good oral hygiene and dental health start at home with the things you do every day, but now and then you need to visit a dentist or orthodontist. From choosing a dentist to beginning orthodontic treatment, in this section we’re going to discuss getting dental work done.
How to Find a Good Dentist
There are a few different factors you should consider before selecting a dental office to call your own. First of all, is it in your dental insurance network? Preventive dental care, such as cleanings, can start to feel expensive over time. You should make it a point to find a dentist that participates in your insurance network.
Next, you might want to choose a dentist who’s a member of the American Dental Association. There are certainly other ways to find an excellent dentist, but finding one who’s registered by the ADA is the standard approach.
You should also consider what kind of dentist you want to work with. For example, when a dentist specializes in functional dentistry, it means they solve dental problems by addressing the health of the entire person. This can be beneficial because sometimes the root of a condition isn’t on the surface. A functional dentist will likely educate you on how to preserve your health, orally and holistically, in between visits. On the other hand, a regular dentist may take a less hands-on approach, and will probably isolate problems and approach them separately. Neither method is necessarily better than the other — it just depends on what you want.
Finally, the last thing you must consider before selecting a dentist is what kind of dental work you want done. If all you need is regular checkups and cleanings, then any general dentistry practitioner should work for you. But if you want help with more specialized issues, such as teeth grinding, sleep habits, or childhood dentistry, you might want to find someone who specializes in that field.
There’s one more thing you should probably consider, depending on your situation: are you currently in pain? If so, then the dentist you choose is less important than when you can get an appointment. Even if a certain dentist wouldn’t be your first choice, if they have an appointment available tomorrow and you’re currently dealing with a throbbing toothache, you should probably choose them.
Getting Orthodontic Treatments
If you need orthodontic treatment, there’s an entirely different set of considerations you’ll need to make.
Whether you want to get plastic aligners, like Invisalign, or the most affordable braces you can find, first you’ll need to visit your personal dentist for a cleaning and checkup. Your orthodontist can tell you how far ahead of your appointment to get braces that your dentist appointment should be. If you’re unsure what kind of orthodontic treatment is right for you, either your dentist or orthodontist can make a recommendation based on your situation. Even if Invisalign is well within your budget, it might not be the ideal option given your condition.
Before going in for your orthodontic appointment, ask your orthodontist if you should take an antibiotic before your visit. You should also let them know what allergies you have, if any, just in case. This is especially important if you’re allergic to certain metals, such as nickel.
You may need to see your orthodontist one week before having your braces applied to get spacers inserted between your back molars. These create space between your teeth for the bands that hold the braces in place. If you’re getting plastic aligner trays instead, obviously this won’t be necessary.
Getting braces applied should only take two hours or less, and it shouldn’t cause any significant discomfort. You’ll also be able to eat right away after having them applied, although foods that require little to no chewing are recommended, such as soup, mashed potatoes, and ice cream.
Dental Health for Children
It’s extremely critical that you instill good dental habits in your children while they’re still young. This way good dental health will become a priority for them throughout their lifetime, without them having to unlearn bad habits or shift their perspective as adults. Not only this, but ensuring your children visit the dentist and practice good oral healthcare while they’re young will give them a strong foundation of good oral health that will impact them for the rest of their life.
As soon as your child starts to develop their first teeth, usually around six months old, you should begin brushing them. If you like, you can use a lower strength toothpaste for children under the age of six, but it isn’t always necessary. Experts typically recommend that you ensure your child’s toothpaste contains at least 1,000 ppm of fluoride, either way. Until your child is three years old, you should just use a small smear of toothpaste on their brush. Once they turn three, you can start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, like you use yourself.
You should begin flossing your child’s teeth for them as soon as they have two teeth growing next to each other. Again, toothbrushes by themselves can’t reach in between teeth effectively, which is why dental floss is important, even for young kids.
When your children start brushing their teeth for themselves, supervise them closely to make sure they’re doing it right. Instruct them to watch themselves in a mirror while they brush, as this will help them learn to do it effectively. This is a foundational habit that will last them the rest of their life, so make sure it’s established correctly.
Early on in your child’s life, you’ll want to find good pediatric dentists to take them to for checkups and cleanings. If you’re worried that your child will be afraid of visiting the dentist, considering bringing them along for your own dentist appointment. They can watch the process and see that it’s nothing to be afraid of that way.
Many children end up needing a braces treatment as they grow up. This is often a point of significant stress, as a teen’s self-confidence can be shaken by the need for braces. If you can get inconspicuous plastic aligners instead of metal braces, they may feel less self-conscious about them. Either way, it’s important to prioritize your child’s mental health and self-esteem as they grow up.
And with that, you now know everything you need to maintain good dental health for your family. From brushing your teeth the right way to taking your child to their dentist appointments, hopefully you can see that good oral health doesn’t have to be complicated.