In our grandparent’s days, basic dental care consisted of a toothbrush with either a baking soda and salt combination that came in a tin can or they simply used just baking soda from the kitchen cupboard to brush their teeth. Today, there is a plethora of toothpastes, mouthwashes, floss, and whitening kits available for us to choose from to keep our teeth looking bright and white. Western dental wisdom has evolved over the last few decades to include our knowledge of what we eat and drink to how we sleep can affect our dental health.
Dentists now tell us that the acids in fruit juices, and not just the sugary snacks have a great deal to do with the degradation of tooth enamel which leads to bacteria being able to penetrate into the more vulnerable parts of our teeth, causing tooth decay. Gone are the days when we only went to the dentist when we got a toothache, and usually that visit would lead to having the offending tooth pulled. Fillings, dentures and implants were either, ineffective, uncomfortable or not available. Oh how western dental knowledge and practice has changed in just the last 50 years. Now we know that what we eat and drink and even how we sleep has a great affect on our teeth.
Of course to minimize these effects we are advised to brush and floss regularly and especially after eating sugary snacks as soon as we can. We are also being told that chewing gum with xylitol can help clean your teeth. And if you aren’t near your bathroom sink, there are a variety of new products such as one-time use toothbrushes complete with toothpaste you can carry with you and use almost anywhere.
Gum disease not only affects the health of our mouths but also our general physical health. As we get older these are also the steps that we need to take care to keep in our daily routine because as the years go by just by the shear passing of time both our teeth and gums can be susceptible to a variety of conditions. Visiting your dentist for a full examination every six months is essential to find and correct gum disease before it becomes critical.
Along with routine visits and along with a professional cleaning your dentist or hygienist will also check for other irregularities that can’t be detected with self-examinations. Although everyone should look for inflamed gums, staining of the teeth, and sores and wounds on the gums, tongue or cheeks. If these are found before a regularly scheduled appointment these should be reported as soon as possible to a dentist.
Dental professionals can also detect if a person is grinding or clenching their teeth while they sleep, which if left untreated will contribute to enamel loss, hairline cracks especially in molars, and even broken teeth. In these cases the dentist will fit the patient with a mouthpiece similar to those worn by athletes. This doesn’t stop the person from grinding but simply adding that layer of protection between the teeth. With proper dental care, regular checkups and cleanings most people can expect to keep their teeth well into old age. Eating a healthy diet, along with limiting sweets, and either don’t start or stop smoking will also help to not only keep a healthy mouth but also overall wellbeing.