Having healthy teeth and gums is important for overall health and well-being. Problems like cavities, gum disease and oral cancer can impact your ability to eat and speak, which can have an effect on your quality of life. But small steps, such as brushing and flossing regularly and seeing a dentist for regular checkups, can help you stay healthier and reduce your risk of disease.
People of all ages need to care for their teeth and gums to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. The best way to achieve and maintain good oral health is to practice proper daily maintenance, including brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and using waxed dental floss to remove food from between the teeth. People also should visit a dentist at least once every six months for cleaning, x-rays and an exam to look for tooth decay, gum disease, and other issues.
Eating a nutritious diet is also vital for good dental health. Eating foods high in calcium and phosphorus helps strengthen and build enamel, the hard, protective outer layer of teeth. These foods include dairy products, leafy vegetables, almonds and calcium-fortified tofu. Limiting sugary foods and beverages can also help prevent tooth decay.
In addition to taking good care of your teeth and gums, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use can protect your oral health. Smoking and chewing tobacco can damage the gum tissue and lungs, and increase your risk of developing mouth and throat infections such as ulcers and lesions. Excessive alcohol use can lead to gum disease, xerostomia (dry mouth), and other oral health problems.
The link between oral health and other diseases and conditions is growing. Oral bacteria can travel to the heart, kidneys, joints and other parts of the body, causing infections. Infections can also affect the general health of the body, increasing the risk of certain diseases and decreasing overall quality of life.
For example, gum disease increases the risk of diabetes complications. And some research suggests that periodontal (gum) disease can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and respiratory issues.
Good dental health begins shortly after birth, and it’s an ongoing process. It requires a combination of daily habits, such as brushing and flossing, and regular visits to the dentist. Having a healthy diet and limiting sugary drinks can help, as well as staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. People should also make sure they get enough sleep, exercise and don’t smoke to maintain good oral health. Finally, it’s important for everyone to take a proactive role in ensuring they have access to affordable and accessible dental health care services. This includes supporting efforts to add fluoride to public drinking water and advocating for dental coverage as part of standard health insurance or through community-based programs. It’s also important for people to let their dentist know of any medications they are taking, especially antiresorptive drugs, which can cause a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). ONJ occurs when bone in the jaw dies due to the effects of these medications. To find out more about dental health visit your local Northbrook, IL dentist.