Don't Forget About Your Pearly Whites

How to keep your teeth and gums healthy

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Proper care of your teeth and gums promotes dental health and lowers your risk for dental issues like tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss, among others. 

Here's what you need to know to keep your pearly whites healthy.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is caused by bacteria found in tartar and plaque. When plaque does not get removed, it turns into tartar, which invites bacteria in. This then leads to inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. 

Gum disease is broken into three levels: gingivitis, mild to moderate periodontitis and advanced periodontitis.

Gingivitis is the first stage, and if it is caught early, it can be reversed with proper tooth brushing and flossing.

The next stages are mild to moderate periodontitis and advanced periodontitis, which are marked by increased inflammation and bleeding around the teeth. If not treated, there is a chance for bone loss and loosening of teeth that ultimately have to be removed. 

What Can I Do to Keep My Teeth Healthy?

1) Get a dental exam at least once a year. You may need to visit your dentist more often if your dentist says so. 

Your dentist will check for problems and treat any problems you may have. This is the time to ask your dentist or dental hygienist how to check for signs of gum disease at home.

Make sure to tell your dentist about all of the medications you take. Some medications can affect your teeth. 

2) Create a health plan with your dentist, and ask questions. This is the time to ask your dentist or dental hygienist:

  • About the best way to properly take care of your teeth at home. This includes how to properly brush and floss and how often to rinse your mouth with mouthwash. 
  • How often you need to see the dentist, as well as how often you should get a cleaning. 
  • What to do if you start to have any dental problems.

Keep your other doctors informed about your dental care. Ask your dentist to send your exam results to your other doctors after every visit.

3) Take care of your teeth. Make sure you brush, floss, rinse and eat right. And stop smoking. Unless your dentist says otherwise, follow these recommendations from dental health experts:

  • Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Do not forget to replace your toothbrush periodically.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Rinse with mouthwash.
  • Eat right. Limit food high in sugar.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking can increase your risk for gum disease.

What Else Should I Know?

Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but can lead to tooth decay and other issues. Many medications can cause dry mouth.

If you have dry mouth, tell your dentist about all of the medications you take. This way, she can determine whether any of your medications are the cause and can take the necessary course of action. If you have dry mouth, try sipping water or sugarless drinks, do not smoke, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and try sugarless hard candy or sugarless gum.

If you have any questions about caring for your teeth, ask your dentist. In addition, if you have any questions on what toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash or other dental products to choose, ask your dentist or dental hygienist.