The Best Habits for Good Oral Health

Maintaining proper oral health by brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly is important to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Eating a healthy diet, wearing a mouth guard during sports and avoiding bad habits such as chewing ice are just some of the ways people can keep teeth and gums healthy.

Please describe the best method for proper brushing and flossing and what happens to the teeth, gums, and mouth if people do not brush and floss properly.

Simona Amin: So basically, the best method for proper brushing is called the Bass method, which is actually having the bristles of the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle from the gingival margin. Basically, you’re going to take your toothbrush and make sure the bristles are underneath your gum line at a 45-degree angle and you’re going to go in circular motions all around your teeth. That is the evidence-based, proper way of brushing.

Flossing. You must floss, which is as important as brushing. People tend to neglect flossing or they tend to be lazy. But I definitely recommend even using a dental placker. It’s a C-shaped adjunct. It has like a small handle that you can use to definitely go from tooth to tooth. But after about three teeth, you throw it away and get a new one because it tends to remove and replace plaque from one tooth to the other. It’s very important to change it.

What happens to the teeth, the gums, and mouth if people do not brush, that’s when decay starts getting to be like the main issue of that patient’s mouth or gingivitis. And when gingivitis turns into periodontitis, that tends to be a bigger problem because the periodontal ligaments are no longer holding, or can hold, your tooth in the socket. What happens is the plaque that’s formed by the foods that we eat or that the acidic beverages that we tend to drink, that bacteria, that specific kind of bacteria tends to eat away the healthy fibers in our mouth that holds our teeth into place. So, it’s very important that people tend to get in good shape with their oral health.

Also, I want to mention that you have to brush your tongue, as well, because that is the main cause of bad breath. Just having a healthy lifestyle as in no smoking, limit alcoholic beverages. Also, if you have or tend to have a systemic disorder, which is for example, diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. This will decrease the risk of the complications that could include gum disease.

If you’re on medication that causes dry mouth, you have to ask your doctor or your dentist for something that can activate the salivary glands because not having saliva in your mouth can definitely cause decay and recession because there’s no nutrients flowing. Our saliva tends to have nutrients and the antimicrobial agents that we need to revive our enamel. So, without our salivary flow, there will be no support, nothing to support our enamel, nothing to prevent any decay. So that’s also important.

Which healthy foods can actually improve oral health? And what are the worst foods for oral health?

Simona Amin: Okay, so the healthy foods basically that improve oral health is anything with a basic Ph, meaning any dairy. Dairy is very good, such as cheese. Cheese actually turns your mouth into basic where there’s no acidic agents that could possibly cause decay or cause any inflammation. That’s actually anything with Xylitol too. Xylitol tends to be a sugar-free agent that is used instead of real sugar that’s added to sugar-free gum. Also, the sugar packets that we see in any coffee shop, those are actually substituted instead of using real sugar. We have that substitute for any sweeteners. That’s healthy for our oral health.

The worst kinds of food is anything acidic, anything that’s sweet. Believe it or not, fruits have fructose. That’s a natural sugar but it can be detrimental to the enamel as well when it’s too much. Also, when it comes to acid-based foods like lime. Lime tends to cause erosion of the enamel, which is weakening the enamel and it causes it to change colors and literally, it looks like your enamel is being eaten up by the acidic agent that it just absorbed into the dentin.

And soda, of course. I mean I’m a big soda drinker myself, but I try to limit myself. That’s actually like a recipe for disaster, a recipe for bigger problems too, not just teeth decay, but diabetes as well.

The thing is that the oral cavity can actually tell us whether you’re healthy or not. When we look inside a patient’s mouth, we can tell that, okay, so if this person has a, let’s say an autoimmune disease, we can tell because for example, the tongue can be coated. That’s candidiasis, that’s a type of yeast infection in the mouth. So, the oral cavity can actually tell whether you’re healthy or not. It’s very important to remain healthy and eat smart.

How often should people visit the dentist for a checkup and professional teeth cleaning? What oral health issues are dentists checking for that you can’t see or feel at home?

Simona Amin: Okay, so basically people should go for a dental visit every six months. If you have or tend to have any prosthetics in your mouth, that’s actually every four months, three to four months. But a healthy person should definitely visit the dentist every six months for a regular checkup and a professional teeth cleaning.

The oral issues that the dentist would be checking for is any inflamed lymph nodes that tells us that there’s a sign of infection somewhere in the body. Also, when a tooth needs a root canal, we can actually tell by the x-ray that underneath that tooth that needs a root canal, there’s like a fluid forming called an apical granuloma. That is not seen or felt at home. And it’s asymptomatic.

So, it’s very important that people visit the dentist. I mean, I know that it’s not people’s favorite place to be, but it’s very important that everybody should get a checkup and see what they might have or they might learn even by their oral routine and the way they should clean their mouth properly. Get a form of education for themselves just to provide a better lifestyle.

What are some bad habits people have, like biting their nails, that they should break to improve their oral health?

Simona Amin: The bad habits. Okay. Well, you know what, there’s a lot of bad habits that happen. People tend to grind their teeth subconsciously while they’re sleeping. That’s one of the bad habits. And that’s normally treated by a night guard. Also sucking their thumb. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of developing babies that do suck their thumb and the way their teeth are developed is around that thumb. So, they tend to end up with an open bite. Your teeth do not occlude as they should. So, when they bite down, they feel as if there’s a huge gap between the lower arch and the upper arch. So that could be also a problem.

Biting on ice, chewing on ice, that could definitely be detrimental to the enamel and could cause sensitivity. Ice is really cold and you tend to desensitize your enamel by damaging it. It does cause attrition, which is basically grinding of the teeth that could end up in a root canal or we have to end up extracting it for these bad habits. So, it’s important to just stop yourself. Clenching, also. People tend to, when they get mad or when they get nervous, they clench their teeth, they bite down so hard that their enamel just damages itself by the pressure that we apply. So that’s also important to stop.

Please explain the importance of wearing mouth guards for nighttime tooth grinding and for playing sports?

Simona Amin: Basically, when people are stressed out, they don’t normally feel it until they fall asleep. When they do, they subconsciously grind their teeth and when the grinding occurs, enamel is basically the strongest material in our bodies. It is actually stronger than bone. So, when enamel hits enamel and the pressure of the mouth is applied, the enamel is damaged. The top surface of the tooth that is normally flattened down and some people literally just ruin, they wear out their enamel and end up with zirconium crowns because of how damaged their enamel is from grinding. It’s very important to wear a mouth guard, when it comes to nighttime tooth grinding. And playing sports, of course, because that reduces any trauma to the tooth or to your mouth especially with playing sports. It’s very important you get these materials if you know you need them.

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