Imagine waking up on your 60th birthday, looking in the mirror, and marveling at your perfect teeth. Sure, you’ve had a few cavities filled over the years, but otherwise your teeth are gorgeous. Good genes? Nope. Instead, you learned good habits early, and you stuck to those habits consistently. What’s the magic formula? Read on to find out.
Benefits to preventative dental care
There are two main benefits to preventative dental care. The first one is money. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, A dollar spent on dental care now will save you thousands of dollars later.
Restorative dental care can cost many thousands of dollars, while good dental habits mostly cost a few minutes of your time each day. Why not spend a little bit now on investing in those good habits? When you’re 60, you can spend the thousands you saved on something a lot more enjoyable than a full mouth reconstruction.
The second, and most important benefit, is a lifetime of healthy, beautiful teeth. Read on to learn exactly how you can have those gorgeous pearly whites.
The magic formula
Okay, there really isn’t a magic formula, but it’s pretty close. Here are four of the most important dental habits you can form.
A healthy diet. A healthy diet is the single most important dental habit you can form. Your body is a collection of many systems, and each one of these affects the other. Good nutrition powers all of these systems.
We all know that sugar is especially hard on our teeth, but so are other simple carbs that quickly turn to sugar in our mouth. To test this, hold a small piece of cracker in your mouth until it starts to dissolve, and you’ll soon taste sweetness. This is because an enzyme in your saliva called amylase breaks down the starch in the cracker to sugar.
Avoid acidic drinks such as soda or fruit juices. It is okay to drink them occasionally, but only during meals. Sipping on these drinks throughout the day expose the teeth to constant acid attacks, and this erosion is the #1 cause of cavities.
It is also important to consume enough calcium. Dairy isn’t the only good source of calcium, so are vegetables in the cabbage family such as broccoli, kale, and mustard greens. Sardines and canned salmon are also good sources of calcium.
Consistent at-home care. Brush and floss your teeth after every meal. Your mouth is a busy place. Bacteria—tiny colonies of living organisms—are constantly on the move on your teeth, gums, lips, and tongue. Having bacteria in your mouth is normal. While some of the bacteria can be harmful, most are not, and some are even helpful.
Certain types of bacteria, however, attach themselves to hard surfaces, like the enamel that covers your teeth. If they’re not removed, they multiply and grow in number until a colony forms. More bacteria of different types attach to the colony already growing on the tooth enamel. Proteins that are present in your saliva (spit) also mix in, and the bacteria colony becomes a whitish film on your teeth. This film is called plaque, and it’s what causes cavities.
When refined carbohydrates or sugars are ingested, these bacteria use the sugar and convert it to acid that dissolves tooth enamel. The acid attacks start immediately after consuming sugars and last for 20 to 30 minutes.
Use fluoride. Fluoride is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay. It occurs naturally in most food and is in most non-rural water supplies. There are two main ways that fluoride works.
- Topical fluoride strengthens your teeth by seeping into the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. Toothpaste and mouth rinses are the most common methods of topical fluoride application.
- Systemic fluoride is what we ingest through our food or water. You can also get fluoride drops or gels from your dentist. Systemic fluoride also strengthens teeth that are still forming under the gums, which is especially important for children.
Regular dental visits. Your dentist is your partner in your path to healthy dental habits. In addition to catching cavities or other problems early, you can also have your teeth cleaned and receive diagnostic X-rays.
Diagnostic X-rays not only find early evidence of tooth decay, but can also discover any signs of cysts, tumors, or bone loss. Best of all, your dentist can help you create an effective personalized dental routine based on your lifestyle.
The time to start creating good habits is today. If you don’t see a dentist every six months, make an appointment today. Don’t focus on what might be wrong with your teeth; ask your dentist to help you create a new plan for healthy dental habits. Your dentist is your partner for a lifetime of healthy teeth.