Now that more people than ever are keeping their natural teeth with them into old-age, knowing how to support the health and wellbeing of your teeth and gums should be top of mind. Here are some of the dental health concerns we can effectively prevent with good oral hygiene.
While some tooth breaks are purely accidental, many tooth breaks are preventable. While many of us don’t consider chewing ice cubes or opening a nut shell with our teeth to be risky behaviours, we would be shocked to hear of bottles being open with the teeth! The truth is, all of these should be avoided in order to prevent a break and retain healthy amounts of tooth enamel. Any food for which there is a tool is there for a reason, so get out your lobster crackers and nutcrackers and avoid the temptation to crunch away at large pieces of ice – for the sake of your teeth.
High risk activities for dental injuries include activities like army training, hockey, rugby or other contact sports. We recommend wearing a mouthguard to protect the teeth during these activities, limiting the potential for a trauma to the teeth.
Gum and Enamel Erosion
Can you be ‘too good’ at cleaning your teeth? Sort of. If you’re brushing your teeth too aggressively, you could be putting yourself at risk of gum and enamel erosion. We recommend using a soft, circular touch to clean your teeth of plaque and debris and using an extra soft toothbrush can help in that effort. When teeth are scrubbed too hard for too long, over time the gums can begin to be pushed back from the teeth. When this happens, the gums stop providing a full protective covering of the dentin layer (the highly sensitive layer under the enamel). Not only is dentin extremely sensitive, brushing too hard can erode enamel on the surface of the teeth, causing more dentin exposure and sensitivity.
We know that lifestyle choices like smoking can discolour your teeth to a yellow-brown tone, but are non-smokers aware of the other contributors to staining? Tannic acid in red wine, for example, is twice an offender where staining the teeth is concerned. The tannins suppress salivary function, which effectively leaves the teeth and enamel vulnerable to staining while the ‘rinse’ function of the mouth recovers. Coffee and tea have a similar effect on the teeth as wine, which you may have wondered about when you looked at the stains in your coffee mug this morning!
Of course, there are the obvious dietary culprits where bad breath is concerned, but are garlic and onions the only offenders? Some vegetables in the cruciferous family of vegetables have been found to have properties that produce a sulfuric odour when consumed. Broccoli, and cauliflower are members of the cruciferous family, as well as brussels sprouts and kale. But don’t write these healthful vegetables off just yet – many lovers of these odour-causing vegetables find that the effect is minimized when these vegetables are lightly steamed.
Dental Decay and Abscess
If you are brushing, flossing and rinsing your teeth after every meal you are actively preventing oral concerns such as dental decay (cavities) and abscesses. When plaque bacteria and food debris is allowed to remain in an oral cavity, bacteria inside the mouth populate freely and feed on sugar left behind from the last meal. The result is an acidic environment where enamel is compromised over time, and bacteria begins to demineralize the areas of the teeth where cavities will eventually form.
Plaque bacteria eventually calcifies on the bases of the teeth, and irritates the gum tissue continually until it can be professionally removed. In severe cases, plaque and tartar are allowed to proliferate to such a degree that the irritated gingival tissue loosens from the base and root of the tooth, allowing bacteria to gain access deep into the gum tissue.
Abscesses can form in the gum and present as a large pimple which may be full of pus or weeping, or they can form at the ends of the tooth root if the infection is occurring inside the pulp of the tooth. These infections can be dangerous if the infection spreads to the bone of the upper or lower jaw.
Abscesses are often a symptom of chronic infection due to periodontal disease. Keeping the teeth and gums healthy with regular brushing and flossing controls the number of bacteria in the mouth, limits exposure of the enamel to acids, and safeguards your mouth against most common dental issues. Seeing your dentist regularly further supports a strong and healthy mouth by preventing the manifestation of these dental concerns and treating those concerns which do arise in a timely fashion so that overall dental health isn’t negatively impacted.