The Proper Care & Feeding of Teeth: Are You Walking the Talk?

by | May 6, 2015 | Oral Health

teethMost people can tell you how long to brush your teeth, how often to floss, and which foods are tooth-healthy. That doesn’t mean they actually follow their advice.

For instance, according to a recent survey by :DentalPlans, just three out of five people brush twice daily. When they do, they often don’t brush long enough, falling short of the full two minutes most dentists recommend. Less than half floss once a day.

Considering that, it’s no mystery why gum disease runs rampant.

But while regular hygiene is critical, it’s not all there is to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. The food you eat matters, too. A lot.

The survey delved into this, as well. Asked to identify “healthy snacks,” most identified apples and vegetables – both great choices – but failed to recognize cheese and nuts as good options. Nuts are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. Cheese, in addition to being a fine source of calcium, has been shown to neutralize the acids that damage tooth enamel. (There are plenty of other tooth-friendly snacks, as well, but these were the ones the survey noted.)

All these are better than snack products such as chips, crackers and other hyper-processed, refined carbs. These along with soft, chewy or sugary products are the preferred food of oral pathogens (“bad bugs”). They also tend to stick to the teeth, giving those microbes ample opportunity to feed. Oral conditions become acidic.

What’s more, such foods can affect the flow of fluid through the miles of microscopic dentinal tubules within each tooth. Normally, it flows outward, repelling pathogens and their acidic byproducts. This helps protect the tooth. A high intake of sugar and simple carbs, though, is one thing that can reverse the flow. Bacteria and acids are then pulled into the tooth.

Sugary beverages pose a similar problem. But while the survey found most people knowing that soda is bad for teeth, far fewer knew that beverages such as juice and sports drinks are just as much a problem. In fact, they typically contain at least as much sugar as soda – sometimes even more – as well as dietary acids. Suffice it to say, this is a real double-whammy.

The best option, beverage-wise, is water – something your body needs a lot of every day, as it’s involved in every single metabolic activity. Just like oxygen, we need it to live. While we get some of it from food – especially vegetables and fruit – we have to drink the rest. The typical person should drink half their weight in ounces of non-fluoridated water daily – ideally, drunk in small increments throughout the day. (But beware of flavored or “enhanced” waters, which can contain artificial sweeteners, flavors and such, making them less healthful than they may seem.)

Last, the survey also took a look at how well folks take care of their main cleaning tool, their toothbrush. Here, the news was a lot more positive, with 71% saying that they replaced their brush every few months and 16%, when the bristles looked worn. Both are in line with current recommendations.

Storage, though, seems to be an issue, with just 19% saying they kept it in a place where it could air dry – in this case, a cup on the counter. This helps control the bacteria, since oxygen disinfects.

What you don’t want to do is stash your brush in a drawer or into a plastic cover. Those closed spaces become bacterial breeding grounds. What you do want to do is store it upright in open air, not touching or touched by other people’s brushes.

Now think about your own habits. Do you brush twice a day for two minutes? Do you floss once a day? Do you change your toothbrush regularly? Are you due for a hygiene check-up?

Most of us have that one sticking point, whether it’s flossing or eating too much sugar. This summer, challenge yourself to work on improving that one habit. You’ll be surprised how one little change can put you that much closer to walking the talk.

Image by Johnoaz

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