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Good Dental Hygiene Makes A Big Difference

Natasha Grover MD

By Natasha Grover, DDS
VCU Health CMH Family Dental Clinic

Maintaining your teeth isn’t only about looking good.  Poor dental hygiene can lead to problems that are much bigger than an unpleasant smile. Tooth decay and gum disease can affect other parts of your body, including your heart.

Why is it important to practice good dental hygiene?

Good oral/dental health translates to good health overall. Dental problems such as cavities or gum disease can impair your ability to eat and speak properly, cause pain and bad breath. And what many people may not realize, is that poor dental health can have a profoundly, negative affect on areas outside of the mouth, including your heart, diabetes, pregnancy and chronic inflammation, such as arthritis — to name a few.

Some studies suggest that the bacteria in gum disease can travel to your heart and cause heart disease, clogged arteries or stroke. Gum infections, such as periodontitis, have been linked to premature births and low-birth weight in pregnant women. Diabetics should be especially careful about dental health because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, making the gums more susceptible to infection, which can adversely affect blood sugar.

Practicing good dental hygiene is so important because it can prevent these type of oral disease and dental problems. And prevention should be the primary focus. I advise the following:

1. BRUSH YOUR TEETH TWICE A DAY

Brushing at least twice a day for good oral health. If you get the chance, it can be good to brush after every meal. Make sure you floss daily, too. Floss can clean crevices even the most thorough brushing might miss.

2. USE PRODUCTS WITH FLUORIDE

Fluoride is super important to healthy teeth. Fluoride is a salt that is shown to prevent tooth decay. It is so important, fluoride is even added to our water. When choosing dental hygiene products, make sure to choose products that contain fluoride. This helps reduce your chance of getting cavities.

3. REPLACE YOUR TOOTHBRUSH REGULARLY

An old toothbrush might feel like it’s doing the job, but your toothbrush should be replaced about every three months. The bristles soften over time, and bend out of shape. Both of these things mean they do their job less well. Also, toothbrushes get dirty. Bacteria can collect in your toothbrush over time. It is important to replace your toothbrush before those bacteria can damage your teeth or make you sick.

4. MAINTAIN A GOOD DIET

You might be surprised how much of an affect what you eat can have on your teeth. Of course we all know that sugary foods like candy and soda can cause cavities. Some foods can also do your teeth a world of good. Dairy products are high in bone-healthy calcium to strengthen your teeth. Crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples and celery can scrape food particles off of teeth and also stimulate saliva production to clean your mouth.

5. SCHEDULE REGULAR PROFESSIONAL CLEANINGS

Even the most diligent tooth-brusher can’t get the same clean that a dental professional can. Many people think it is unnecessary to visit the dentist, but a hygienist can reach places it can be hard to clean on your own. Specialized tools can also get teeth cleaner than a toothbrush can. Your regular dental visit also includes an exam, so we can keep an eye out for any signs of decay or developing problems. For most patients, we recommend visiting the dentist’s office every six months.

What are the signs of a serious dental problem?

You should see your dentist if you experience pain, bleeding gums, swelling, both inside and outside the mouth, tenderness, blisters and ulcers that don’t heal, or noticeable changes in color or texture of the soft tissues. These could all be indications of a serious, or potentially serious condition, such as mouth cancer or chronic gum disease.

The CMH Family Dental Clinic is able to see patients who do not have the ability to pay for dental care in part because of a grant the clinic received from the Virginia Health Care Foundation.

The CMH Family Dental Clinic is accepting new patients. If you need a dentist, please call 434-584-5590.