It has long been known that good nutrition and a well-balanced diet is one of the best defenses for your oral health. Providing your body with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals helps your teeth and gums—as well as your immune system—stay strong and ward off infection, decay and disease.
Harmful acids and bacteria in your mouth are left behind from eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. These include carbonated beverages, some kinds of fruit juices, and many kinds of starch foods like pasta, bread and cereal.
Children’s Nutrition and Teeth
Good eating habits that begin in early childhood can go a long way to ensuring a lifetime of good oral health.
Children should eat foods rich in calcium and other kinds of minerals, as well as a healthy balance of the essential food groups like vegetables, fruits, dairy products, poultry and meat. Fluoride supplements may be helpful if you live in a community without fluoridated water, but consult with our office first. (Be aware that sugars are even found in some kinds of condiments, as well as fruits and even milk.)
Allowing your children to eat excessive amounts of junk food (starches and sugars)—including potato chips, cookies, crackers, soda, artificial fruit rollups and granola bars—only places them at risk for serious health problems, including obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. The carbonation found in soda, for example, can actually erode tooth enamel. Encourage your child to use a straw when drinking soda; this will help keep at least some of the carbonated beverage away from the teeth.
Adult Nutrition and Teeth
There’s no discounting the importance of continuing a healthy balanced diet throughout your adult life.
More and more people are avoiding the need for dentures as they grow older, going against the notion that false teeth are a normal part of growing older.
In fact, there’s usually no reason for you NOT to keep your teeth your entire life, providing you maintain a healthy balanced diet and practice good oral hygiene.
Another desirable side effect of good oral hygiene: avoiding more serious problems such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even stroke. Indeed, medical research is beginning to show that a healthy mouth equates to a healthy body and a longer life.
Dexterity and Arthritis
People who suffer from arthritis or other problems of dexterity may find it difficult and painful to practice good oral hygiene.
Thankfully, industry has responded with ergonomically designed devices such as toothbrushes and floss holders that make it easier to grasp and control.
You can also use items around the house to help you. Inserting the handle of your toothbrush into a small rubber ball, or extending the handle by attaching a small piece of plastic or Popsicle stick may also do the trick.
Floss can also be tied into a tiny loop on either side, making it easier to grasp and control the floss with your fingers.
Women have special needs when it comes to their oral health. That’s because the physical changes they undergo through life—menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, breast-feeding and menopause—cause many changes in the body, some harmful to teeth and gums.
Lesions and ulcers, dry sockets, as well as swollen gums, can sometimes occur during surges in a woman’s hormone levels. These periods would be a prime time to visit the dentist. Birth control pills have been shown to increase the risk of gingivitis, and hormone replacement therapy has been shown to cause bleeding and swollen gums. Gum disease can also present a higher risk for premature births.
Some research has shown that women may be more likely to develop dry mouth, eating disorders, jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders, and facial pain—all of which can be difficult from a physical and emotional standpoint.
Taking care of your mouth with proper oral health care is essential, and can go a long way to helping you face the physical changes in your body over the years.
Infants should be seen by our office after the first six months of age, and at least by the child’s first birthday. By this time, the baby’s first teeth, or primary teeth, are beginning to erupt and it is a critical time to spot any problems before they become big concerns.
Conditions like gum irritation and thumb-sucking could create problems later on. Babies who suck their thumbs may be setting the stage for malformed teeth and bite relationships.
Another problem that can be spotted early is a condition called “baby bottle tooth decay,” which is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby’s mouth.
If left untreated, this can lead to premature decay of your baby’s future primary teeth, which can later hamper the proper formation of permanent teeth.
One of the best ways to avoid baby bottle tooth decay is to not allow your baby to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep. Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet substances such as honey, because this only encourages early decay in the baby’s mouth. Encouraging your young child to drink from a cup as early as possible will also help stave off the problems associated with baby bottle tooth decay.
Teething, Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking
Teething is a sign that your child’s gums are sore. This is perfectly normal. You can help relieve this by allowing the baby to suck on a teething ring, or gently rubbing your baby’s gums with the back of a small spoon, a piece of wet gauze, or even your finger.
For babies under the age of 4, teething rings and pacifiers can be safely used to facilitate the child’s oral needs for relieving gum pain and for suckling. After the age of 4, pacifiers are generally discouraged because they may interfere with the development of your child’s teeth.
Moreover, thumb-sucking should be strongly discouraged because it can lead to malformed teeth that become crooked and crowded.
Primary and Permanent Teeth
Every child grows 20 primary teeth, usually by the age of 3. These teeth are gradually replaced by the age of 12 or so with a full set of 28 permanent teeth, and later on, four molars called “wisdom teeth.”
It is essential that a child’s primary teeth are healthy, because their development sets the stage for permanent teeth. If primary teeth become diseased or do not grow in properly, chances are greater that their permanent replacements will suffer the same fate. For example, poorly formed primary teeth that don’t erupt properly could crowd out spaces reserved for other teeth. Space maintainers can sometimes be used to correct this condition, if it is spotted early enough.
Babies’ gums and teeth can be gently cleaned with special infant toothbrushes that fit over your finger. Water is suitable in lieu of toothpaste (because the baby may swallow the toothpaste). Parents are advised to avoid fluoride toothpastes on children under the age of 2.
Primary teeth can be cleansed with child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrushes. Remember to use small portions of toothpaste (a pea-sized portion is suitable), and teach your child to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste when finished.
Fluoride is generally present in most public drinking water systems. If you are unsure about your community’s water and its fluoride content, or learn that it has an unacceptable level of fluoride in it, there are fluoride supplements your dentist can prescribe. Your child may not be getting enough fluoride just by using fluoride toothpaste.
Toothaches can be common in young children. Sometimes, toothaches are caused by erupting teeth, but they also could indicate a serious problem.
You can safely relieve a small child’s toothache without the aid of medication by rinsing the mouth with a solution of warm water and table salt. If the pain doesn’t subside, acetaminophen may be used. If such medications don’t help, contact your dentist immediately.
You can help your child prevent oral injuries by closely supervising him during play and not allowing the child to put foreign objects in the mouth.
For younger children involved in physical activities and sports, mouth guards are strongly encouraged, and can prevent a whole host of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures.
Mouth guards are generally small plastic appliances that safely fit around your child’s teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliable when opened, and mold to the child’s teeth when first inserted.
If the tooth has been knocked out, try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to see our office. Remember to hold the dislocated tooth by the crown—not the root. If you cannot relocate the tooth, place it in a container of cold milk, saline or the victim’s own saliva. Place the tooth in the solution.
First, rinse the mouth of any blood or other debris and place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury. This will keep down swelling.
For a fractured tooth, it is best to rinse with warm water and again, apply a cold pack or compress. Ibuprofen may be used to help keep down swelling.
If the tooth fracture is minor, the tooth can be sanded or if necessary, restored by the dentist if the pulp is not severely damaged.
If a child’s primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try getting the child to gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel; in some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.
Irritation caused by retainers or braces can sometimes be relieved by placing a tiny piece of cotton or gauze on the tip of the wire or other protruding object. If an injury occurs from a piece of the retainer or braces lodging into a soft tissue, contact our office immediately and avoid dislodging it yourself.
Sealants fill in the little ridges on the chewing part of your teeth to protect and seal the tooth from food and plaque. The application is easy to apply and typically last for several years.
A knocked out tooth or bitten tongue can cause panic in any parent, but quick thinking and staying calm are the best ways to approach such common dental emergencies and prevent additional unnecessary damage and costly dental restoration. This includes taking measures such as application of cold compresses to reduce swelling, and of course, contacting our office as soon as possible.
Dentures today are made from very advanced materials designed to give you a natural appearance.
However, keep in mind that just like your teeth, dentures should be cared for with the same diligence. This means daily brushing and regular visits to your dentist.
Regular visits to your dentist are critical. Your dentist also can make minor adjustments that ensure that your dentures continue fitting naturally and comfortably.
Just like natural teeth, dentures need to be cleansed of plaque, food particles and other debris. Keeping your dentures in top shape will also help keep the soft tissues of your mouth healthy; an unclean or malformed denture can cause infections and irritation.
Remember to rinse and brush your dentures after every meal, and soak them in denture solution overnight. This also allows your gums to breathe while you sleep.
Here are some simple techniques for keeping your dentures clean:
- People can brush their dentures in a variety of ways. Some people use soap and water or a slightly abrasive toothpaste. Popular denture pastes and creams also can be used.
- Avoid using highly abrasive chemicals or pastes, or vigorously brushing with hard bristled toothbrushes. These can scratch or even crack dentures.
- Hold your dentures gently to avoid loosening a tooth.
- Clean your dentures with cool or tepid water over a water-filled sink. Hot water may warp a denture. A small washcloth placed in the bottom of the bowl will ensure that your denture isn’t damaged if it falls.
- Soak your dentures overnight in any commercially available product like Efferdent or Polident, and remember to rinse your dentures before placing them back in your mouth.
- Remember to use a separate toothbrush to clean your own natural teeth, as well as all of your gum tissues. In lieu of a toothbrush, a soft washcloth may be used to wipe your gums.
Over time, even daily care of your dentures may require them to be cleaned by the dentist. A powerful ultrasonic cleaner may be used to remove hard accumulations of tartar and other substances.