By Dr. Samira Haque
JACKSON, MI – Good dental care means more than fixing tooth decay or other problems when they arise. With dentistry, our goal is often preventative. We want to prevent cavities and gum disease before they happen.
Prevention is why regular dental check-ups are so important, even if your teeth and mouth feel fine. Regular cleanings and exams protect against dental decay and can help catch problems in the mouth before they progress to advanced stages. Early detection often means less pain and lower financial costs.
Here are some tips to help prevent dental disease:
• Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes in the morning and again at night. Brushing at night is especially important because we produce less saliva at night, making it easier for decay to form. Spit but do not rinse the fluoride toothpaste out of your mouth. The fluoride foam will help protect your teeth.
• Floss once a day. Follow the shape of your teeth with the floss instead of flossing straight up and down. That will do the best job of removing plaque from your teeth.
• Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or more often if you tend to brush with a lot of pressure. If the bristles are splayed, you need a new brush.
• Avoid sipping drinks that are sugary or acidic, such as sports, energy and soft drinks. Bacteria in plaque feed on sugar to form acid, which dissolves tooth enamel, causing decay. Also avoid frequent consumption of some drinks that may sound healthy, such as orange juice and tomato juice, if they are acidic.
• Be mindful of the number of times during the day that you drink, eat or snack. Each time you eat and drink, the acid level in your mouth can increase, and it takes some time for your body to get the acid level back down. Eat healthy food including cheese and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid sweet and sticky foods, and beware of starchy snacks such as potato chips. Starch is a complex form of sugar that also promotes tooth decay.
• Dental decay can happen at every stage of life, but extra care may be needed for children and the elderly if they lack the motor skills to do a good job of brushing their teeth. People with many prescription medications can also be at a higher risk for dental decay if dry mouth is a side effect of their medications.
If you do feel tooth pain, it’s important to see your dentist to check for an infection. It’s especially important to see your dentist if the pain is strong enough to keep you awake at night or causes you to have difficulty eating.
The good news is that the pain and the expense of serious dental problems can often be prevented by seeing your dentist regularly and maintaining a few good habits that safeguard oral health.
– Dr. Samira Haque is a dentist at the Center for Family Health Dental Clinic at 500 N. Jackson Street. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and has practiced at the Center for Family Health since 2013.