For oral health, most of us know the drill: brush twice a day (at least), floss once a day, visit your dentist twice a year, and so on. However, many people neglect regular dentist visits, daily flossing, and thorough brushing. Sadly, dental health is often not a high priority, and tooth decay, gum disease, and other health issues are the result.
What’s the Big Deal?
Maintaining your dental health is not only important to preventing painful cavities and tooth loss, but it affects your overall health as well. Your mouth is the gateway into your body, and if it’s infested with bacteria, there is a higher chance you’ll have health issues elsewhere. For example, an infection in your gum tissue can spread to other areas, causing inflammation in various blood vessels and potentially leading to heart complications.
Neglecting your dental health allows bacteria to multiply on the surfaces of your teeth and in other areas of your mouth. This leads to a variety of problems, including these:
- Tartar buildup: Bacteria form in filmy layers of plaque on your teeth and gums, and if left alone for more than a day, this plaque will harden into tartar. Tartar is difficult to remove, making the likelihood of tooth decay much greater.
- Cavities: Cavities are holes in your teeth that result from bacteria. As you eat, bacteria feed on substances in your mouth (particularly sugar) and produce an acidic substance. This acid eats into the enamel of your teeth, leaving holes that can result in deeper infection.
- Gum disease: Bacteria don’t just affect your teeth. If they get under the gum line, they cause the gums to recede from the teeth, leaving pockets. Over time, these become infected, and bone loss can occur. Early stages of gum disease are fully reversible with proper dental hygiene, but if it’s not properly treated, it can result in irreversible bone loss around the teeth.
- Tooth loss: Whether it’s a cavity that has penetrated deep into the tooth or decay of the bone holding it in place, neglecting your dental health can eventually lead to tooth loss. If this occurs, costly and uncomfortable measures like dentures or implants may be in order.
Poor dental health has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, pregnancy complications, and lung conditions. By keeping up on your dental health and making that a priority in your life, you help maintain your overall health.
Ideally, dental hygiene should begin early. Habits are more easily formed at a young age, so teaching children to brush and floss daily will ingrain them with a lifetime of good habits. Later in life, their dental hygiene habits will be unlikely to change; so if they don’t have them, they will have a much harder time with their oral health.
A Few Pointers
Most people know that dental health is important, but they’ll still be a little lazy about it. The reason for this is likely because it can be a pain and simply inconvenient. Dentist visits might be expensive, flossing may be uncomfortable, and brushing thoroughly might seem like a hassle. If this is the case, remembering a few facts might help out:
- Time: The time it takes to maintain oral health is comparatively small. Just two minutes twice per day to brush, a minute to floss, and you’re set. When it comes to dentist visits, it’s just a couple hours out of every year to keep your teeth in good shape.
- Prevention: The costs of routine dental care might seem hefty, but compared to the expense of dealing with a complex health issue, such as advanced periodontal disease, bone loss, and cardiovascular problems, it really is a worthwhile investment.
- Diet: Dental health isn’t just about brushing and flossing. Like every other part of your body, your teeth need certain nutrients and minerals to stay healthy. Eating foods with plenty of calcium, vitamins A, C, and D, and phosphorous will keep teeth strong.
- Sports safety: If you or your children play sports, wearing a fitted mouthguard will keep teeth from being knocked out of place.
Simple daily habits supplemented with routine dental checkups keep your oral health in good shape. Your teeth, gums, and overall health will thank you for making it a priority.