At Burlingame Dental Arts, the best dentist in Southwest Portland, we understand that our patients have a lot of questions about their oral health, especially when it comes to improving their smile. Having a healthy and attractive smile not only makes it easier for you to engage in daily activities like eating, talking and drinking, but a great smile can also improve your confidence and help you meet your personal and professional goals.
Fortunately, every patient of Drs. De Graf and Kierkegaarde can enjoy the benefits of a brilliant smile by taking the time to look after their oral health, and by practicing quality oral hygiene habits. With that in mind, here are three tips that will help you achieve great oral health and improve your smile.
Improve Your Oral Hygiene Habits
Since childhood, you’ve probably heard about the importance of brushing and flossing nightly. Whether from a parent who cautioned you about sugar rotting your teeth or from a friendly pediatric dentist who talked about what could happen if you didn’t maintain your oral health, the idea that not brushing leads to tooth loss has probably stuck for most of your life. However, just because you understand the importance of brushing and flossing doesn’t mean you practice those habits adequately enough.
When it comes to their oral health, most patients could stand to improve their daily hygiene habits in one of three ways: brushing more frequently, brushing longer or flossing daily.
If you only brush once a day, you’re not cleaning your teeth frequently enough to prevent the risk of decay. While brushing right before bedtime might seem adequate enough to remove any lingering food particles that have remained on your teeth throughout the day, brushing in the morning means just as much to your long-term oral health.
The number one risk to the health of your teeth is plaque, a sticky biofilm made of bacteria and food particles. Plaque constantly builds up in the mouth, and uses the foods we eat to produce harmful substances that damage tooth enamel, the hard outer shell of your teeth that protects the delicate roots in the center. The more plaque on your teeth, the more damage that occurs whenever you eat.
Brushing helps remove plaque from your teeth, as does the saliva your mouth produces throughout the day. Unfortunately, when you sleep at night, the body produces far less saliva; most of which probably ends up on your pillow. So by only brushing once a day, you give plaque a 24-hour head start on doing damage to your oral health. But by brushing once in the morning and again at night, you can keep plaque under control.
Even if you do brush twice a day, you’re probably not brushing for long enough. The American Dental Association recommends brushing for two minutes at a time, or four minutes a day. Studies have actually shown that the average adult only spends about 30 seconds brushing, or one minute a day total. That’s a quarter of the time you should be spending on cleaning your teeth.
Run your tongue along your teeth and you can feel all the bumps and crevices were food could linger. By only giving your teeth a quick brushing, it’s unlikely that you’re hitting all of the hard to reach places of the mouth that can harbor bacteria and harm your oral health. So take your time when you brush and make sure to give each area of your mouth – including the front and back of your teeth – the time it deserves.
Finally, when you hear about the importance of flossing it doesn’t mean you need to floss once a week or every other day, it means you need to floss everyday. To many oral health experts, flossing actually plays a more important role than brushing when it comes to preventing tooth decay. That’s because flossing helps to remove plaque from areas of the mouth your toothbrush cannot reach, such as between teeth and along the gum line.
Sadly, despite the importance, studies have shown that only 51 percent of adults floss daily, and 10 percent never floss at all. If you don’t think flossing can really make that big a difference, consider that the most frequent place in the mouth for cavities to develop is actually between your teeth. Keep that in mind the next time you consider putting off flossing till tomorrow.
Watch What You Eat & Drink
What you eat and drink regularly can have an enormous impact on your long-term oral health. Foods and drinks high in sugar like sodas, carbs, candy and artificially sweetened fruit juice provide plaque with plenty of fuel to secrete harmful acids that erode away at your teeth’s enamel. So if you start every morning washing down a bagel with a glass of orange juice or a mid-day snack means grabbing a bottle of soda and a candy bar from the vending machine, your oral health already has the deck stack against it for the rest of the day.
It’s not just sugar than can a negative impact on your oral health. You can stain the color of your teeth if you drink tea, coffee, red wine and soda on a daily basis as well. Coffee, fruit juice and soda are also highly acidic, which can soften enamel and make the effects of plaque more damaging to the health of your teeth.
As a general rule, consider that any food consider healthy for your body is also probably good for your teeth. So diets high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can not only help improve the way you look and feel, they can also help add a little luster to the health of your teeth.
Call a Professional
You can perform all of the preventative maintenance necessary on your car and still need to visit a mechanic from time to time to ensure that it runs properly. The same can be said for the health of your teeth.
While brushing and flossing at home and watching what you eat can go a long way to improving your smile, still need to schedule regular appointments to see either Dr. De Graf or Kierkegaarde to enjoy the best oral health possible. Regular checkups and cleanings will provide our doctors with the opportunity to assess the health of your smile, spot any potential signs of decay or gum disease, remove plaque deposits that have built up along the gum line and perform oral cancer screenings.
Once you stop believing in the Tooth Fairy, you only get one set of teeth for the rest of your life. Considering the long-term impacts associated with poor oral health, the effort you make to improving your smile today can make all the difference later in life.