When we think of dental hygiene we often consider it to be completely separate from our overall health. However, your oral health is just as important and should be treated as equally as you would with all other aspects of your health – which is why the Canadian Dental Association has designated April as National Oral Health Month.
Having poor oral health can have a negative impact on your health – whether it’s missing or broken teeth, cavities, or other dental-related issues. We all need to have good dental hygiene, and that means a commitment to taking proper care of your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly. This reduces the risk of gum disease as well as prevents tooth decay, and will even leave your teeth looking whiter. Good oral hygiene doesn’t just happen at home, however. You also need to have regular visits with your dentist as well as go for regular cleanings with a hygienist. Patients will often have their teeth examined while they’re at their cleaning appointment. There, your dentist will carefully examine each tooth as well as take a series of x-rays to ensure there aren’t any other issues going on with the teeth – for example, if you need a root canal or if you have gum disease. Signs of gum disease include red, sore or swollen gums, bleeding gums, and bad breath. Your dentist will also be able to check for any signs of oral cancer – something that approximately 3,200 Canadians are diagnosed with each year. Signs of oral cancer include red or white patches in the mouth, small lumps or thickened areas in the mouth, open sores that don’t heal, or numbness and tingling in the mouth.
In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, it’s also recommended that you eat a well-balanced diet as well as limit foods and/or beverages that are high in sugar. The less sugar you eat, the more likely you will be to develop a cavity and require a filling. Good nutrition will build strong teeth and help keep your gums healthy. Cutting back on sugar also has other great benefits for your overall health. By decreasing your sugar intake, you also decrease your risk of developing conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Depending on age, dental hygiene may differ for some. Children, for example, need to be taught the importance of taking care of their teeth – but they also need to be shown how to do that. There are many different ways in which youngsters can be taught – however, it can be a task for some, so it’s important to make it a fun activity that gets them wanting to do it as opposed to them feeling like it’s a chore. You can find some helpful tips, tricks and activities for children here.
When it comes to seniors, they may be on certain medications that can cause dry mouth or gum problems, so it’s important for seniors to also have regular dental exams. Many seniors also have dentures – either partial or full – or dental implants. These need to be treated as carefully as real teeth would. Just as normal teeth can have a build-up of plaque and tartar, so can dentures, so it’s important to clean them every day – either by using a special dental cleanser like Polident, or by soaking them in a mix of warm water and vinegar. When it comes to dental implants, while they look like a normal tooth, they’re not as strong as real teeth would be – meaning they can break more easily. To avoid breaking or cracking a dental implant, you should avoid foods that are hard and/or crunchy. It’s also important to be gentle when brushing or flossing around an implant.