Most of us don’t exactly get fired up about a visit to the dentist. I completely dread it, in fact! Often, we let those bi-annual appointments slide and wait to visit the dentist until we have a more serious problem. What many people don’t realize, however, is that regular dental visits and maintaining oral hygiene are closely tied overall health. You wouldn’t skip a visit to the cardiologist if your heart was bothering you, right? Well, the same goes for your dentist.
Dr. Caitlin Grimes at StoneCreek Dental Care has compiled a list of nine important things your dentist wants you to know so that you can achieve optimal oral and overall health:
1. Your mouth is full of bacteria — you MUST brush your teeth. It’s not something we like to think about, but our mouths are full of bacteria – some of which can be harmful to our teeth and overall health. Harmful bacteria erode teeth and contribute to periodontal (gum) disease, which is why brushing your teeth at least twice daily for two minutes is absolutely essential. Remember – brushing is vital, but if you overdo it you may damage your gums. Brush gently at a 45-degree angle to effectively remove the bacteria that causes plaque buildup and decay.
2. Flossing isn’t optional either. If you’re not flossing regularly, you really should be (and your dentist can tell if you aren’t). Flossing removes food debris and bacteria that gets stuck between teeth. Be sure to check with your dentist to make sure you’re flossing correctly!
3. Your dentist can detect issues early. This might seem overly obvious, but the best way to prevent dental pain is to visit your dentist. Many dental issues are not painful initially, so when you visit your dentist he or she can detect any minor issues before they turn into major ones. Your dentist can fill a small cavity, for example, before it has the chance to get infected and cause a painful tooth abscess.
4. Poor oral health contributes to poor overall health. Did you know that if you have gum disease you are much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke? This risk increases when those harmful bacteria travel through the bloodstream to the rest of the body and increase inflammation. Oral health can greatly impact your overall health, and vice versa.
5. Smoking will ruin your teeth. Aside from yellowing your teeth, smoking contributes to bad breath, receding gums and a dry mouth. A dry mouth is much more prone to harboring bad bacteria, leading to plaque buildup and tooth decay. Smoking also decreases your body’s ability to fight off infection in the mouth, and contributes to the development of oral cancer. The bottom line – kick that habit ASAP!
6. Change your toothbrush every three months. Over time, your toothbrush loses its effectiveness. The bristles become frayed and do not work as well as they once did, and the bad bacteria that lives in your mouth builds up on your toothbrush. If you have gum disease, you need to change your toothbrush more often — every four to six weeks. If you’ve been sick, it’s especially important to change your toothbrush afterwards to get rid of any germs.
7. Bleeding gums are usually not “normal.” Bleeding gums can be the result of several factors. You might be using a toothbrush with hard bristles and brushing too vigorously. Bleeding gums may also signal an improper flossing technique. At worst, bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease. Regardless of the cause, if your gums are bleeding be sure to ask your dentist about it!
8. There’s more to that regular dental visit than cleaning. Your dentist isn’t just there to clean your teeth and give you a brighter smile. During your regular dental visit, he or she will also check your mouth for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. These issues are much easier to treat if found early.
9. Your dentist is here to help you, not judge you. Some people do not visit the dentist because they are embarrassed about their teeth or an issue with their mouth. Don’t worry — your dentist has been highly trained in treating a variety of issues and will be able to talk through any concerns you may have and discuss the appropriate treatment options.
With these nine things in mind, be sure to make and keep your regular dental appointments so you can take control of your dental and overall health. Every patient is different, so your dentist will work with you to address your individual needs and ensure you have the healthiest smile possible!