If oral health had a slogan, it might go something like this: What happens in your mouth doesn’t stay in your mouth. Neglect your teeth and gums, and the inflammation that results from such treatment may come back to haunt you in the form of heart disease, stroke and difficulty controlling diabetes.
How? The human mouth is filled with bacteria, which can usually be controlled by regular brushing and flossing. Saliva also contains enzymes that kill bacteria. But if you’re lax with your oral hygiene, bacteria can grow out of control. And unhealthy gums can provide the perfect opening for those bacteria to get into your bloodstream and lead to inflammation in your system.
Other possible causes of oral health problems include menopause and medications that cause dry mouth.
How do you avoid oral health problems? All it takes is good hygiene, so remember to:
- Brush all surfaces of your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Use a soft-bristle brush to make small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes, using the tip to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth. Make sure to brush gently along the gum line and lightly scrape your tongue to remove bacteria.
- Floss at least once a day. Break off about 18 inches of dental floss, wrap it around the middle fingers of each hand and hold it tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Using gentle rubbing motions, push it between your teeth, and curve it into a C-shape against the tooth when it reaches the gum line. Gently slide the floss into the area between the gum and tooth and move it up and down. Let out the floss with each tooth so you’re always working with a clean piece. If it’s too difficult for you to hold the floss, try a floss holder.
- Limit snacks that are high in sugar.
- Quit any tobacco use.
- Check your mouth often. Look for swollen gums, chipped teeth or sores.
- Schedule regular dentist visits. This may be every six months, or more frequently if you’re prone to dental problems.