We’ve all heard, “Brush your teeth before you go to bed,” “Floss your teeth,” and “Avoid sugar.” Healthy teeth habits can affect your overall health and save your family money on dental bills.
Your mouth is a unique environment.
The Perfect Home for Bacteria
Your mouth is warm and moist—the perfect home for bacteria. More than 700 different bacteria can live in your mouth. A healthy person usually has around 110 different kinds of bacteria living inside his mouth.
A person with cavities, or dental caries, only has about 90 because few bacteria can survive the low pH associated with cavities.
Yet, cavities are caused by bacteria.
Are you confused yet?
Bacteria in Your Mouth
Many different bacteria live in our mouth. Probiotics help us digest our food. Some bacteria in our mouth actually help prevent tooth and gum disease.
Streptococcus mutans is a common “bad” bacteria that likes to destroy tooth enamel. It feeds off the sugars and starches you eat. But its appetite is unquenchable and produces enamel-eroding acids. You can’t get rid of this bad guy, but you can control him with healthy habits like brushing and flossing.
Occasionally Porphyromonas gingivalis moves in to cause gingivitis, a danger disease that breaks down tissue and the bones that support the teeth. Your dentist will know how to treat gingivitis.
Practical healthy habits at home and you can prevent the number one childhood disease in the USA.
#1 Childhood Disease
Dental caries is the most common disease among children ages 5 to 17. It affects adults, too. If left untreated, dental caries can eventually lead to tooth loss.
What is dental caries?
We refer to it as “cavities” and it’s basically mineral loss from your tooth or dentin.
Plaque (an infectious transmissible biofilm) is spurred on by long periods of acidic, or low pH in the mouth. This leads to loss of calcified tissue, or dentin.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, clear or pale yellow film that forms on your teeth all the time. Four hours after brushing it off, it is already forming again. That’s why brushing your teeth is so important.
Plaque forms between your teeth and along the gum line. Plaque causes cavities, but healthy habits prevent plaque from its destruction!
Heathy habits are really simple! Some you already know, but may not practice. Here are tips for healthy teeth:
- Brush plague off your teeth as often as possible
- Most important is to brush before you go to bed so acids can’t work on your teeth at night
- Floss between teeth to remove plaque that the toothbrush misses
- Electric toothbrushes probably do a better job than regular
- Avoid acidic beverages like soda (diet and regular)
- Avoid snacking between meals
- If you are on a medication that decreases salivary flow in your mouth, make sure your rinse your mouth out with water throughout the day
- Rinse your mouth out once a day with baking soda/water mixture
- Eat alkaline foods like green vegetables, most fruits, peas, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts
Healthy gums are important, too. Healthy gums are firm and pink.
Unhealthy gums are red, swollen, and bleed when you brush or floss. Smoking, sickness, and poor hygiene habits cause unhealthy gums.
How can you keep your gums healthy? Here are some tips:
- Floss daily
- Go to the dentist once or twice a year
- Brush teeth at least twice a day
- Use fluoride toothpaste
Training Children to Take Care of Their Teeth
It can be a battle to get children to brush their teeth, not to mention floss. I remember having to smell my children’s mouths to make sure they had brushed.
So how can we instill healthy dental habits in our children?
- Start out by brushing their teeth and flossing for them when they are young
- Teach them to brush and floss while you are there watching
- Get children toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss they like and like to use
- Reward good dental habits with a treat—like a healthy apple or nuts
- Take them to the dentist regularly
- Read books about teeth, gums, and dental care
- Watch videos about teeth and gums
There you have it! If you heed this advice, you are well on your way to being that family with healthy teeth.
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!