You have so many good reasons to keep your family's teeth and gums healthy: Their sparkling smiles. Being able to chew for good nutrition. Avoiding toothaches and discomfort. And new research suggests that gum disease can lead to other problems in the body, including increased risk of heart disease.
"We love our patients at Soddy Daisy Smiles, but we also know they would prefer to spend as little time in our office as possible. It's OK, we get it," said Dr. Mandy Shearer. "Dental work beyond the occasional checkup can be uncomfortable, time consuming and costly. That's why it's so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle between visits to the dentist."
Research shows that poor oral health affects more than just the teeth. Poor oral hygiene has been shown to increase the risk of heart attack, dementia and diabetes. Fortunately, there are simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy from childhood to old age.
• Switch from sugary sodas to sparkling water and fruit. A lot of what you love about soda can be had with this much healthier alternative, according to Dr. Shearer. Try squeezing a lemon into your water, or adding some berries. Not only will you be keeping sugars from forming acids that can eat away at your teeth, you'll be cutting some big-time calories from your diet, too.
• Order water with every drink. Water is great for the teeth and mouth. It's OK to enjoy other types of beverages as long as you clean your mouth out afterward. Water can prevent sugary drinks from lingering and causing bad breath and tooth decay, and it will help keep teeth from staining.
• "Most of us start the day off with some type of caffeinated drink, and it's not uncommon to throw back a few more during busy times,"said Dr. Robert Shearer. "Coffee and tea have a couple drawbacks. One is the potential for stained teeth. The other is like the last item on this list: sugar [if you're the type of person who enjoys lots of sweetener with your drink]." Both can be remedied, to a degree, by swishing your mouth out with a glass of water between sips or after you've finished our drink. The water will clean dark liquids away and help prevent sugar from building up in crevices, which can potentially lead to cavities.
• Phase out chewy candies for hard sweets. Sugar isn't necessarily bad for you; it's the acids that are created when the bacteria in your mouth break down sugar, according to the experts at Soddy Daisy Smiles. That starts to happen when sugars hang around in your mouth for too long, which is why chewy candies can be particularly bad for teeth. Phase them out of your snack routine, or be sure to thoroughly clean your teeth after you indulge.
• Switch to xylitol gum. This is one of the easiest ways to avoid too much sugar, especially for avid gum chewers. Xylitol is sweet like sugar, but the bacteria in the mouth can't break it down. That means less of a chance of bad breath and tooth decay. "The bacteria in our mouths loves sugar, and it breaks the sugar down into acids, which can make your breath smell. Xylitol is a sugar alternative that those bacteria can't break down, meaning you're just left with whatever fresh scent your gum has," explained Dr. Mandy Shearer.
• Eat foods that will help your breath smell good. Fruits high in vitamin C, like melons and citrus fruit, will help kill germs in the mouth, and fiber-packed foods like celery and apples can help remove food wedged between the teeth. A healthy diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums. A well-balanced diet of whole foods -- including grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products -- will provide all the nutrients needed.
• Don't smoke or use smokeless tobacco. Tobacco stains teeth and significantly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, consider quitting, and counsel your kids not to start.
• Brush at least twice per day, floss and scrape your tongue. It's old, basic advice, but that's because it's sound. Bad breath happens when the bacteria in your mouth have bits of food and debris to feed on. Don't let them - keep your mouth clean, and you'll greatly reduce the chance for bad breath.
The most important thing is to visit the dentist regularly. Most experts recommend a dental checkup every six months -- more often if patients have problems like gum disease. During a routine exam, the dentist or dental hygienist removes plaque buildup that can't be brushed or flossed away and looks for signs of decay and other issues.
"Almost all tooth decay and most gum disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene," Dr. Robert Shearer said. "We're talking about taking a few minutes each day to brush and floss. That's not a lot in return for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums."
For more tips or to schedule a checkup, contact Soddy Daisy Smiles at 423-332-5275 or soddydaisysmiles.com. The practice is located at 9759 Dayton Pike.