There’s a lot more to a healthy mouth than just cleaning your teeth. Fresh breath and healthy gums need care, and what you eat also contributes to your oral health.
Food Do’s and Don’ts for a Healthy Mouth
Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods including milk, yogurt and cheese. Calcium maintains strong bones and teeth and is particularly important for children as they develop their adult teeth.
Avoid sticky sweets and taffies that coat the teeth with sugar. This breaks down and forms acid which rots the tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. If you do eat sweets, rinse your mouth or brush the teeth afterwards. Chewing gum after a meal stimulates saliva for a healthy mouth, but make sure you choose natural, sugar-free gum without artificial sweeteners.
Keeping Gums Healthy
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that reside in tartar and plaque build-up in the mouth. Plaque is the sticky coating on teeth that is caused by food and saliva. An important part of cleaning your teeth is to remove this bacteria-harboring plaque before it hardens into tartar.
Bacteria are also present in tartar, causing inflammation, bad breath and gum disease, called gingivitis. Tartar unfortunately needs a dentist or dental hygienist to remove it, which is why regular dental checkups and professional cleaning are an important part of maintaining a healthy mouth and gums.
Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of heart disease as it provides a portal for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Stage one gingivitis is evidenced by red tender gums that bleed easily when brushing your teeth. It can be reversed with regular brushing and flossing of teeth.
If left untreated, gingivitis will develop into second stage gum disease – mild to moderate periodontitis. Increased inflammation, pain when chewing, and bleeding gums are likely as the bacteria break down the teeth attachments within the infected gums. The gums recede and pockets open at the base of the teeth, allowing more infected material to lodge there. The third stage of gum disease is advanced periodontitis with loss of bone supporting the teeth and eventually tooth loss.
Clean Teeth Mean a Healthy Mouth
Clean teeth are essential for a healthy mouth as this helps prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss. It’s important to brush teeth thoroughly with a soft brush every morning and before bed; and after each meal if possible. An electric toothbrush is particularly helpful as the rotating brushes give a thorough scrub of the surface of each tooth. Electric water flossers have become popular because a stream of water (mixed with mouth wash too) flushes debris out of the pockets and helps to soothe tender gums.
Store your toothbrush in the open air as a closed container can encourage the growth of microorganisms on the bristles.
Use floss to remove plaque between the teeth. Pull the floss to the gum then work it gently from side to side below the gumline for a thorough clean of each tooth base.