Daily Decisions that Can Transform Your Oral Health
There are plenty of things we can do alone, but doing them with someone else is usually more enjoyable—and it allows you to benefit from the other person’s knowledge and experience. This applies just as well to your oral health as it does to the rest of your life. After all, your dentist has gone through specialized training to build the skills and knowledge to help you and your family stay healthy, so it’s okay that they know more about oral hygiene and health than you do!
Your dentist actively helps you prevent tooth decay and gum disease, but maintaining long-term oral health is also dependent on the decisions you and your family make every day. Making the right decisions can transform your oral health for the better, but many people don’t realize why certain details are important—or that they’re important at all. When it comes to learning about these choices, your dentist in Boise, ID, is an excellent resource. To help you take care of your family’s oral health better at home, here are 5 things your dentist wishes you knew.
1. Your diet matters to your oral health.
Your diet impacts your oral health just as much as it impacts your overall health. A healthy diet should have a balance of lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy. These foods provide vitamins and minerals that are essential for your tooth and gum health, so it’s important to get enough of them. Crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots can even help clean plaque from your teeth by scraping it off naturally as you chew. Changing your diet might sound difficult, but it’s much easier if you do it in stages instead of all at once. Plus, it makes a surprisingly huge difference for your overall health as well as your oral health.
2. Flossing isn’t an optional part of your oral hygiene routine.
It’s pretty common for people to think that flossing is an optional part of an oral hygiene routine—kind of like extra credit for your oral hygiene. The number of people who think that flossing is unnecessary or not that important becomes more clear when you realize that one-third of American adults never floss. In reality, though, flossing is an absolutely essential part of your oral health routine because it’s the only technique that’s able to remove bacteria from between your teeth and around your gum line. It’s so important that, if you have children, you should start flossing their teeth as soon as they have any teeth close enough together to do so.
Even if you brush your teeth and use mouthwash, you can still get gum disease if you’re not flossing. Gum disease is hard to spot at home, so it can become severe without you even realizing that you have it. When it goes untreated, periodontitis (the more advanced stage of gum disease) can even lead to tooth loss. Thankfully, flossing is easy and takes just a few minutes out of your day, so the huge benefit it provides to your oral health is definitely worth it!
3. Pain is the last thing we want you to experience.
The song “Dentist” from “Little Shop of Horrors” is hilarious, but it’s helped spread the false idea that dentists enjoy causing their patients pain—or that they cause pain at all! Dentists are in the business of helping you feel better and stay healthy, not causing you pain. And thanks to modern anesthetics, they can do just that! Whether you’re getting a simple cavity or a tooth extraction, the area around your tooth will be completely numb, ensuring that you won’t feel a thing during your procedure. You may experience some discomfort or mild pain during the healing process, but this is usually so minor that you can easily manage it at home using ice packs and over-the-counter pain medication if necessary. So while the “Dentist” song might be a great song to sing along to and laugh at, it’s far from the truth!
4. Rethink coffee, sugar, and smoking.
Daily habits like drinking coffee, eating sugary foods, and smoking impact your oral health, so it’s important to reconsider these habits that can harm your teeth. Coffee is acidic and stains your teeth over time, so reducing your coffee intake or drinking it through a straw to limit the drink’s contact with your teeth can help improve your oral health and keep your teeth whiter for longer. Sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods provide a source of fuel for oral bacteria, which then produce acids that harm your tooth enamel, leading to cavities over time. We love indulging our cravings for sweet and salty snacks as much as anyone else, but it’s wise to limit them. Try to eat healthy snacks in the form of fruits or vegetables and save less tooth-healthy snacks for during or immediately after meals.
When it comes right down to it, however, one of the worst habits for your oral health is smoking. In addition to staining your teeth, it negatively impacts your immune system, making it harder to fight off infections like gum disease. It also slows the healing process so that it’s harder to heal from these infections. As a result, smokers’ teeth and gums are more vulnerable to decay, and they’re more likely to develop oral cancers. If you can wean off cigarettes entirely, it’s so much better for your oral and overall health—immediately and in the distant future. We know quitting smoking isn’t easy, but there are plenty of resources out there to help you through it!
5. Be careful which whitening treatments you use.
It’s normal to want a smile that’s bright and white in addition to being healthy, so you might find yourself tempted to try at-home whitening remedies that you find on the internet. The internet doesn’t always have the wisest advice, though, so make sure you’re careful about which whitening products you use. Popular treatments often include abrasive or acidic ingredients like charcoal, baking soda, or lemon juice. These methods do yield some results, but they work by rubbing or eroding a small amount of enamel from your teeth. This lightens staining, but it’s bad for your teeth. Repeated uses of these methods can even cause enamel erosion over time, which can eventually cause your teeth to appear more yellow.
Thankfully, there are plenty of safe ways for you to whiten your teeth! Ask Dr. Staley about your options, such as professional whitening treatments at our office, which can whiten your teeth by multiple shades in a single hour, as well as at-home professional whitening treatments. Our at-home treatments offer professional whitening results in the comfort of your own home through a custom-made dental tray, which you’ll use to apply a prescription-strength whitening gel to your teeth for a few hours every night for a week or two. These methods are safe for your teeth, but they provide stunning results.
Your dentist has years of training and expertise designed to help them keep your teeth and gums healthy, so don’t be afraid to use them as the resource that they are! If you have any questions about your oral health or how we handle dentistry for children, feel free to call and schedule a consultation with Dr. Staley at any time.