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Family Health

The Oral Health Connection

Your smile is more than a reflection of your mood; it’s also a sign of your body’s overall wellbeing. Take the first bite of a improved life by keeping your gums and teeth in tip-top shape.

When you open and say “ah” at the doctor’s office, don’t be surprised if you catch the MD checking out your gums. Poor oral health, from plaque build-up to gum disease, can be the root cause of the rest of your body’s problems.

Inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood, increasing the risk for heart attack or stroke. Up to 91 percent of patients with heart disease also have periodontis (severe gum disease), compared with 66 percent of people without heart disease.  

Good oral hygiene starts early in life and follows us from childhood to old age. Follow these guidelines:

For Young Children
  • Get kids started right away: As soon as a child’s first tooth appears, at about six months old, wipe the tooth with a clean, damp cloth or soft brush. By age two, teach children to brush on their own and supervise them as they do. Make it a game if you can – and certainly make it an important ritual in daily grooming.
  • Talk to your dentist about sealants as permanent molars come in at around six years old. The CDC recommends sealants to prevent decay.
For Everyone
  • Get the right amount of fluoride – either from your drinking water or applied directly to your teeth. Fluoride strengthens the enamel on the teeth and helps them resist decay. Young children should use very little fluoride; more than a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste is plenty. Any more could cause white spots to form on the teeth.  
  • Brush and floss TWICE a day. Despite early training, ¾ of today’s teenagers have gums that bleed – a sure sign they’re not brushing and flossing regularly.
  • Check your brush. Get a new toothbrush every three months. Teenagers with braces should talk to their orthodontist about special oral hygiene tools to keep teeth clean as they straighten. Many electric toothbrushes have timers to ensure you’re brushing for the right length of time.
  • Rinse or chew gum after a meal. That’s a sugar-free gum, of course, and an antibacterial rinse. Either with help wash away bacteria and neutralize acids that cause decay.
  • Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco. Both stain teeth and increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
  • Eat smart and include whole foods in your diet.
  • Avoid sugary foods. The bacteria that break down simple sugars in the mouth produce enamel-eroding acids that open the door to decay.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning.

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