Practicing good oral hygiene helps to not only preserve the comfort, structure, function and health of your teeth and oral soft tissues, but also the health of key organs and systems in your body. There are literally millions of bacteria present in your mouth at any given time, and while most of these bacteria don’t actually present a threat to your oral or overall health, some of them can be quite harmful. For example, the sticky film that coats your teeth–plaque–is made up of bacteria and food particles that can cause great harm if left unhandled. This is because the bacteria in plaque produces enamel-eroding acids that can create tooth decay and gum disease problems. It is for this reason that your dentist recommends that you brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time, floss your teeth at least once a day, and visit your dentist for thorough examinations and professional cleanings at least twice a year. But what happens if you don’t always have the time to brush twice a day or floss once a day? Does that mean you’re doomed to suffer tooth decay and gum disease? Perhaps not, if you have developed some good oral habits.
Good Oral Habits
Just as the wrong sort of foods and drinks have the potential to harm your oral health, the right sort of foods and drinks have the potential to protect your oral health. Following are just a few eating and drinking habits that are helpful for your teeth:
- Chewing gum after meals. While certainly important to the digestive process, saliva is also important in preserving the health of your teeth. Saliva not only washes away leftover food particles, it also neutralizes the tooth-eroding acids that are produced by the harmful bacteria in the mouth. Therefore anything that helps to increase saliva flow–especially after meals–is useful in protecting the health of your teeth. This is why the American Dental Association recommends that you chew sugar-free gum after meals, especially if you are unable to brush and floss your teeth.
- Eat cheese for dessert. Many flavorful foods, like tomatoes and citrus fruit, are highly acidic and can actually work to weaken tooth enamel if eaten frequently. Eating a piece of cheese for dessert can help to neutralize the acids from these foods and can therefore better protect tooth enamel.
- Brush your teeth with the food you eat. Foods with firm, crisp textures, like celery, apples, raw carrots and cucumbers, can actually work like a toothbrush. These foods are essentially brushing your teeth while you are eating them, helpfully scrubbing away plaque and food particles.
- Use a straw. They may be delicious and refreshing, but acidic and carbonated drinks have the potential to be more harmful to your teeth than even battery acid. Obviously, avoiding drinks that contain malic acid, fumaric acid and tartaric acid (as many sodas do) is ideal, but where you cannot help but indulge in sodas or acidic fruit juices every once in awhile, use a straw. This will help to protect your front teeth from excessive exposure to these substances, which can help to prevent extensive enamel damage. It is also a good idea to drink some water after consuming these types of drinks in order to help wash away any residue these drinks may leave behind.
- Drink milk. When acid from bacteria begins to eat away at tooth enamel, the surface of your teeth loses valuable minerals, like calcium. Drinking milk, taking calcium supplements and eating cheese and yogurt can help to ensure that your body is able to replace missing minerals so that you don’t suffer enamel loss or tooth decay.
Maintaining good oral health is well worth the effort, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. With some good oral habits, you can find that maintaining your oral health is actually an easy, and natural, part of your life.
For more information about how your diet and other habits can affect your oral health, contact Dr. Best today.