Prevention & Recovery

Brushing up on good oral hygiene

Brushing up on good oral hygiene

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

Brushing up on good oral hygiene

Of course you brush your teeth. You floss (when you think of it) and you visit your dentist (though maybe not as often as you should). But if you're not taking top-notch care of your teeth and gums, you could be risking a lot more than a few cavities.

Research suggests that poor oral health could put you at risk for serious health problems ranging from joint problems to diabetes to heart disease. But you can minimize your health risks through good oral hygiene. Read on for information that will help you achieve – and keep – a winning smile.

Make that appointment

Most people should visit the dentist twice a year. Bear in mind, though, that some people need to be checked more often, and some less. Dentists have an increasing array of tools to help diagnose trouble spots.

Don't neglect your gums
Healthy gums
are firm and pink. Unhealthy gums can be swollen, be separated from the teeth, hold pockets of infection and bleed easily. The main culprit in gum disease is an overabundance of bacteria. Regular flossing will keep your gums in good shape. If you show signs of gum disease, your next stop might be the periodontist.

Choose the right toothpaste
You can exercise your own preferences for colour, taste and texture, but when selecting toothpaste, you may want to ask your dentist if you need something like extra tartar control. Several dentists warn that pastes with whiteners and tartar removers may be more abrasive and potentially more harmful to enamel if used excessively; Canadian Dental Association-recognized brands are not considered too abrasive.

Page 1 of 2 Did you know snacking on hard cheese such as cheddar can be good for your teeth? Find out more on page 2.
Eat smart and quit smoking
Diet and smoking cessation are important elements for healthy teeth and gums, says Dr. Burton Conrod, president of the Canadian Dental Association, who practises in Sydney, N.S. He suggests using Canada's Food Guide as a reference for foods that promote the health of soft gum tissue.

Here are some tips from Conrod:

Try hard cheeses (such as cheddar) at snacktime. They help prevent plaque formation and don't contain sugar, so they're less likely to cause cavities than other snacks.

Choose drinks and snacks that don't contain added sugar (for example, milk, apples, carrot and celery sticks, nuts, sunflower seeds, yogurt and melba toast) instead of cookies or cakes. Be sure to brush after drinking juices or milk because they contain natural sugars.

Avoid hard candies. They contain sugar and remain in your mouth for a long time.

Avoid caramels, toffees and fruit leathers – which stick to teeth.

If you chew gum, choose a sugar-free brand sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar that doesn't break down in the mouth. Clinical trials have shown it to be antibacterial and helpful in fighting dental decay.

Quit smoking. Smokers risk a fourfold increase of developing oral cancer than nonsmokers and are about four times more likely to develop periodontal disease. The toxic chemicals in cigarette tar cause the gums to break down and destroy periodontal tissues, which are fibres that hold teeth to the bone.

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Prevention & Recovery

Brushing up on good oral hygiene