One of the first things people see is your smile… but keeping your teeth and gums healthy can keep you smiling for reasons you may not have thought of. Find out how oral health affects your health and how to best care for your teeth and gums.
Healthy mouths, healthier bodies - is there a link?
Do your body a favour. Go to the dentist. Research shows there may be a link between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease, and stroke, as well as premature and low-birth-weight babies. Although scientists are only just beginning to understand this link, dentists are encouraging people to make oral health care a regular part of a healthy lifestyle. If you are a parent of infants or small children, you are encouraged to start teaching your children about good oral health as early as possible, and have them assessed by a dentist within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.
Good health requires good nutrition, but if you don't have strong teeth and healthy gums, your ability to eat properly is diminished. Your choice of foods becomes restricted, and you may have difficulties getting all the nutrients you need.
And it only makes sense that chronic infections in the mouth, as are common with people with gingivitis or gum disease, put strain on the body's immune system.
To help people learn more about preventing oral disease, the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) urges Canadians to talk to their dentist during National Oral Health Month, which occurs every year in April.
Prevention of gum and tooth problems
For your mouth as for your car, it makes good sense to do some maintenance on a regular basis rather than let a problem grow out of hand from neglect. Follow the Canadian Dental Association's Five-Point Prevention Plan to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Five-Point Prevention Plan
- Brush your tongue and teeth twice a day.
It takes about 2.5 to 3 minutes to do the job right.
- Floss your teeth daily.
Flossing cleans those areas your toothbrush simply can't reach between the teeth and under the gumline.
- Eat, drink, but be wary.
Eat a well-balanced diet! Avoid sweet foods and drinks, especially between meals. And please don't smoke. Smoking can promote serious dental problems like gum disease and oral cancer.
- Check your gums.
Check regularly for these signs of gum disease, the leading cause of adult tooth loss: red, puffy or tender gums; gums that bleed even slightly when you brush or floss; persistent bad breath. See your dentist if any occur.
- Don't wait until it hurts.
See your dentist for preventive checkups and professional cleanings. Regular visits are the best way to prevent trouble and unnecessary expense.
7 out of 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives. It is the most common dental problem, and it can progress quite painlessly until you have a real problem. That's why it is so important to prevent gum disease before it becomes serious.
Signs of gum disease include:
- gums bleeding from brushing or flossing your teeth
- teeth moving or loosening
- pain, redness, or swelling of the gums
- persistent bad breath
Gum disease begins when plaque adheres at and below the visible edge of your gums. If plaque is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar (also called calculus).
There are two main kinds of gum diseases: gingivitis and periodontitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may be slightly red, or you may notice nothing at all. In cases of more advanced gingivitis, your gums may become puffy and bleed during brushing. Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease involving the bone that supports your teeth. Over time, as a result of the bone loss caused by periodontitis, you may be at risk of losing one or more teeth
Prevention is the most important factor in the fight against gum disease. It is essential to keep your teeth and gums clean. Brush your teeth properly at least twice a day and floss at least once every 24 hours. Also, avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
Using proper brushing and flossing techniques is equally important. Be sure to see your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and checkups so that he or she can detect any early signs of gum disease and provide appropriate treatment.
Special thanks to the Canadian Dental Association for their help with this article.