How to Take Care of Your Teeth and Mouth

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A good set of teeth and gums make it easy to eat healthily and enjoy good food. Several factors can affect your oral health, but proper care should keep your teeth and gums strong as you age.

Tooth Decay

Dental plaque is a thin film of bacteria that adheres to the surface of your teeth. If dental plaque isn’t removed by daily brushing and flossing, it combines with sugar in the mouth to produce acid that can damage tooth enamel. This is called tooth decay or cavities.

The longer plaque is left on the teeth, the easier it is for decay to develop. Bacteria in dental plaque also can cause other problems, such as gum disease.

The bacteria in dental plaque produce a potent toxin, or poison, called “advanced glycation end products”, or AGEs. AGEs trigger the body’s inflammatory response, which in turn causes a myriad of health issues ranging from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.

Plaque can be removed during a routine dental cleaning where the dentist removes the plaque with a dental scaler or picks it out with special instruments. The dentist may also recommend using a fluoride-containing mouth rinse or applying fluoride directly to the teeth.

Your dental care team can discuss ways to prevent cavities with you.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, occurs when bacteria that form plaque between your teeth and gums cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets of infection.

Gum disease can cause teeth to loosen, fall out, or become more susceptible to decay.

People with gum disease have larger amounts of bacteria in their mouths and tend to lose their teeth at an earlier age than people who tend to take better care of their gums.

If your gums begin to pull away from the teeth, your dentist may suggest that you go for regular dental cleanings and professional dental care every 3 months to prevent or control gum disease.

You may need daily brushing and flossing, together with regular visits to the dentist, to prevent gum disease.

Brushing and Flossing Teeth

Woman brushing her teeth

To take care of your teeth and gums, you should brush at least twice a day and floss once. Brushing reduces plaque, while flossing removes plaque from around the teeth that brushing can’t reach.

Brushing should be done with a soft-bristled brush at least twice a day — in the morning and before bed. Flossing can be done anytime brushing is not enough to remove plaque from the teeth.

To brush your teeth properly, pick up a toothbrush, place it in your dominant hand, and then move it up and down along the teeth and gum line. After you’ve brushed your teeth, rinse your mouth out with water.

To floss your teeth, you’ll need to use floss. Floss can be made of several different materials, but a dental floss threader is a simple flossing tool that can be easy to use.

To use a floss threader, take the floss threader, wrap the floss around the threader, and then use it to pull the floss between your teeth and along the gum line to remove plaque.

Protecting Teeth

To protect your teeth as you age, you’ll have to worry about more than just plaque and gum disease. You’ll also need to watch for tooth decay or cavities, and keep your teeth strong.

To protect your teeth from cavities, drink a lot of water. It’s important to drink water between meals and to brush teeth right after eating sugary foods. If you’re at risk of cavities, you may need to use fluoride products to strengthen your teeth, or you may need to get them filled or “capped.”

To strengthen your teeth, eating a diet rich in vitamin C, as well as other nutrients, can help.

Keeping your teeth strong and healthy as you age is only part of your dental care routine. You’ll need regular dental cleanings from your dentist, as well as regular visits to your dentist.

Preventing Denture Problems

As you age, your mouth changes, and unfortunately for some people, it means that dentures become a necessary part of their daily routine. Whether you receive dentures due to teeth loss or as part of oral surgery, the condition of your gums will have a direct impact on your comfort and your ability to eat. Healthy gums are less likely to bleed, and this makes it easier to remove your dentures.

Here are a few tips you can follow to help you keep your gums healthy:

  • Observe proper oral hygiene and keep your teeth and gums clean.
  • Reduce your intake of food that causes indigestion, including fatty foods.
  • Eat a diet that is rich in healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.

Consider using vitamins and supplements that contribute to healthy gums, such as: Vitamin C, which helps maintain connective tissue. Vitamin E, which protects against oxidative damage. Multivitamins, which contain many of the vitamins necessary for healthy gums, including zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12.

If you’re having gum problems, you may need to go to your dentist for help. If you have a tooth or gum abscess, your dentist may recommend that you go to the emergency room to receive immediate treatment. You may also need to go to the dentist for gum surgery, which can help remove the offending tissue and begin the healing process.