Most of us realize that diet and exercise play an important part in keeping us healthy. But did you know that a healthy mouth is also an important part of a healthy body?
Poor oral health can affect a person’s quality of life. Oral pain, missing teeth or oral infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats and socializes. These oral health problems can reduce a person’s quality of life by affecting their physical, mental and social well-being.
Oral disease, like any other disease, needs to be treated. A chronic infection, including one in the mouth, is a serious problem that should not be ignored. Yet bleeding or tender gums are often overlooked.
Research has shown there is an association between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, respiratory illness in older adults, as well as pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Although researchers are just beginning to understand this relationship, evidence shows that oral disease can aggravate other health problems and that keeping a healthy mouth is an important part of leading a healthy life.
Five Steps to Good Oral Health
As part of a healthy lifestyle and to help reduce the risk of oral disease, follow these 5 steps to good oral health.
1. See your dentist regularly
Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent problems or to stop small problems from getting worse.
Your dentist will look for signs of oral disease. Oral diseases often go unnoticed and may lead to or be a sign of serious health problems in other parts of the body.
Only your dentist has the training, skill and expertise to diagnose and treat oral health diseases and to meet all your oral health care needs.
2. Keep your mouth clean
Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease (gum disease).
Floss every day. If you don’t floss, you are missing more than a third of your tooth surface.
Your dentist may also recommend that you use a fluoride or antimicrobial mouthrinse to help prevent cavities or gum disease.
When choosing oral care products, look for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal of Recognition. Oral care products that have earned the Seal of Recognition have been reviewed by CDA and will effectively contribute to your oral health.
3. Eat, drink, but be wary
Healthy food is good for your general health and your oral health. The nutrients that come from healthy foods help you to fight cavities and gum disease.
Limit how much and how often you consume foods and beverages that contain sugar. Sugar is one of the main causes of dental problems.
Limit your consumption of foods and beverages that are high in acid. The acid may play a part in causing dental erosion.
4. Check your mouth regularly
Look for warning signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) such as red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums; bleeding when you brush or floss; or bad breath that won’t go away. Gum disease is one of the main reasons why adults lose their teeth.
Look for warning signs of oral cancer. The 3 most common sites for oral cancer are the sides and bottom of your tongue and the floor of your mouth. The warning signs include:
- bleeding that you can’t explain,
- open sores that don’t heal within 7 to 10 days,
- white or red patches,
- numbness or tingling,
- small lumps and thickening on the sides or bottom of your tongue, the floor or roof of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks or on your gums.
Look for warning signs of tooth decay. The possible warning signs include teeth that are sensitive to hot, cold, sweetness or pressure.
Report any of these warning signs to your dentist.
5. Avoid all tobacco products
Stained and missing teeth, infected gums and bad breath are just some of the ways smoking can affect your oral health. Besides ruining your smile, smoking can cause oral cancer, heart disease and a variety of other cancers, all of which can kill you.
All forms of tobacco are dangerous to your oral health and your overall health, not just cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco, snuff and snus can cause mouth, tongue and lip cancer and can be more addictive than cigarettes.
If you use tobacco products, ask your dentist and your family doctor for advice on how to quit.
If you take care of your teeth and gums at home and visit your dentist regularly, your smile should last you a lifetime. You and your dentist are partners in keeping your oral health good for life.