On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love your teeth? While you might not think about it on a daily basis (or even at all) your teeth are pretty darn important to you, aren't they? We, busy humans, tend to take these hardworking little friends for granted, but we sure notice them when they are unwell or, horror of horrors, need to be pulled out!
Fortunately for me and my teeth and gums, I cannot even think of going to sleep at night without flossing and brushing. I seem to have lots of space between my teeth to trap food, and if I try to skip flossing for one (tired, fed up) night, I inevitably lie awake feeling all the nasty little food bits with my tongue. I will neglect to wash my face before I skip brushing my teeth. Even after a New Year's Eve party that brings me home at 3 a.m., those teeth get brushed.
April is Oral Health Month - Make Your Teeth A Big Deal!
April is Oral Health Month, and it's a great time to think about how we can make our teeth a big deal. Not only is oral health related to our appearance and physical comfort, but it also affects our overall health and well-being too. Missing teeth and gum infections can impact how we eat, speak and socialize. Health Canada says that cavities and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions, including diabetes and respiratory diseases. Untreated cavities not only hurt like crazy - they may lead to severe infection. Studies are in the works to determine whether there is a link between poor oral health and heart disease and between poor oral health and women delivering preterm, low birth weight babies.
Kids, Braces & The Need For Even Better Dental Care
Both of my kids are currently fitted with braces, and that has made dental care even more of an issue around here. Unless you are unfairly blessed, as a parent you probably have to constantly remind your little ones to brush and floss their teeth. Add braces to that equation and good luck getting them to floss! Because I'm not always successful in encouraging them to floss and brush often enough, our solution has been to take the kids to the dentist every three months instead of six. If you are worried about increased costs, you can discuss making the in-between visits just for scaling of plaque rather than a full treatment with polishing and fluoride. That's what we do. It's important because improper care and cleaning while wearing braces can lead to orthodontic white spot lesions that appear as (permanent!) white spots that will mar the beautiful smile you are paying all that money to create. I won't get into a whole long explanation here, but essentially they are caused by plaque build-up.
10 Ways To Show Your Teeth Some LoveShow your teeth that you care and they will return the love by giving you many, many years of awesome food-chewing abilities. I love a smoothie as much as the next gal, but I think we can all agree we'd like to be able to continue eating bread too. Here are 10 steps you can take to maintain a healthy, happy smile.
1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Talk about stating the obvious, huh? But most of us can probably use a reminder now and then. Whether you favour an electric or manual toothbrush, the Ontario Dental Association advises you to choose a toothbrush that has soft bristles, fits comfortably in your hand and has a small head that's easy to move around in your mouth. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months or when the bristles are bent. (I have thrown out some pretty awful looking toothbrushes around here.)
2. Floss your teeth at least once, every darn day. Although my dentist recommends flossing before brushing, I keep floss beside my bed for the nights that I'm really, really tired. I'll brush first and then floss while lying in bed. My husband thinks it's gross but my teeth are that important.
3. Consume more foods packed with tooth-friendly vitamins. Eating vitamin-rich foods is a win-win because it's not only great for your teeth and gums but will benefit your overall health and longevity too. Ensure your diet is rich in vitamin A (think carrots, mango, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, broccoli); vitamin C (hello citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes); and vitamin D (vegans should take a vegan-friendly supplement - read my primer on vitamin D for more info.)
4. Consume plenty of calcium and phosphorous. People of all ages need calcium and phosphorous for tooth development and strength. Calcium is the main component of teeth and bones, and phosphorus helps your body balance and absorb calcium and magnesium. If, like me, you don't eat animal proteins, look for vegan-friendly sources of calcium such as leafy green vegetables, calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate and broccoli. Vegan sources of phosphorus include lentils, yellow beans, kidney beans, sesame seeds and whole-wheat spaghetti.
5. Consume more omega-3 fats. If, like me, you don't eat fish, look for oils high in omega-3 fats (like flax oil) and eat more walnuts and soy products. I keep ground flax in the freezer and add it to baked goods and even smoothies. Consider supplementing with an oil blend that includes DHA sourced from unrefined algae.
6. Avoid drinking soft drinks, orange juice and lemonade between meals. Let's just say no to acid erosion, shall we? Acid erosion happens when we regularly consume more acidic drinks and snacks. The acid lingers in our mouths, drawing minerals away from the surface of our teeth and causing them to soften. This can make teeth more sensitive. Avoid acidic food and drink between meals when there isn't as much saliva in your mouth to protect your teeth. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it's best not to clean your teeth right after eating. Brushing while the acid is still fresh in your mouth may remove some of your teeth’s surface. Wait about an hour until your saliva has had a chance to minimize the acid.
7. Don't Eat Sweets. Just Kidding. Sort Of. The Ontario Dental Association advises that it's not a number of sweets you eat that affects your teeth so much as the length of time your teeth are exposed to sweets. If you're going to indulge in your favourite dessert, do it at mealtimes when the amount of saliva helps to protect your teeth. If you can't resist a sweet between meals, choose a less sugary item and avoid sticky sweets or hard candy.
8. Examine Your Mouth Regularly. Have a good look at your teeth, tongue, roof of your mouth and gums so that you know what they normally look like. Then check them out between dental visits for signs of gum disease (red, puffy, sore, sensitive or shiny gums; bleeding when you floss or bad breath that doesn't leave) or oral cancer (numbness, tingling, open sores that last more than a week or so, bleeding, lumps or thick areas). Call your dentist if you're concerned.
9. De-Stress, De-Stress, De-Stress. I don't know anyone who isn't affected by stress, from the smallest child to every age group on up. We all know that stress affects our happiness, our heart rate and our ability to function during daily tasks. But how often do we consider our teeth? I personally had to have my dentist create a custom nightguard because I was wearing down my teeth grinding them together and clenching them during sleep. Stress can also diminish our immune systems making us more likely to get gum disease. Plus that nasty old stress can lead us tired folks to make poor lifestyle choices, like smoking (please don't do it), drinking too much alcohol and eating more "comfort foods" like my fave sugary friend, chocolate. This, in turn, can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and even oral cancer. Combat stress with relaxation techniques (check out these tips from mindfulness experts); a balanced diet that includes lots o' fruits and veggies; regular exercise; and lots of refreshing sleep.
10. Visit your dentist regularly. I was talking to my mom on the phone recently, and she happened to mention that she hasn't been to a dentist in six years. (Sorry Mom.) I was a bit shocked. Even if your mouth feels fine, who knows what could be going on below the surface of your teeth and gums? Your dentist does, that's who! Regular dentist appointments are the best way to detect oral and other health problems you might not know you have and prevent such problems before they start. Plus, most dental diseases, including tooth decay, are simpler to treat and cost you less time, pain and money if found in the early stages.
Find a Dentist
If you don't currently have a dentist (maybe you moved recently or your dentist retired) Ontario residents can find a dentist via the Ontario Dental Association. Their website also has amazing tips for caring for your teeth and mouth.
How much love do you show your teeth?
*Although this post has been generously sponsored by The Ontario Dental Association, the opinions and language are my own. This post is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or dentist with your medical concerns.