We all know the basics about dental health – brush, floss, avoid sugar, see your dentist regularly for a checkups and cleanings. But did you know that your teeth get thirsty? That you may be damaging your smile while you sleep? And are you sure your dentist really knows what he or she is doing? Read on for the details on these and other obscure tidbits about your oral health.
Water Your Teeth:
If you’re dehydrated, your body can’t produce the daily two-to-four pints of saliva necessary to keep your mouth and body healthy
. Saliva is the mouth’s major defense against tooth decay, and also helps to control the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your mouth. Too little saliva can cause accelerated tooth decay, gum disease, oral sores and pain, bad breath and even interfere with your ability to taste. Have a glass of water, your teeth are thirsty.
Circles, Not Sideways:
Your dental enamel is comprised of tiny, tightly-packed rods of minerals. You have about 5 million rods in the lower lateral incisor and up to 12 million in the upper first molar. Brushing your teeth with a side-to-side motion goes against the orientation of the enamel rods in your teeth, which can cause the rods to weaken and break. Instead, position your toothbrush’s bristles at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the teeth and brush gently in small circles.
Tangy Tastes Can Cause Decay:
Sugar-free drinks aren’t always safe for your smile. Ingredients such as citric acid and phosphoric acid, used to give a tangy/fruity taste to snacks, sodas, sports drinks and juice blends, soften dental enamel
. Limit your intake of artificially flavored foods and drinks, especially those containing acids. And don’t brush your teeth right after consuming a sugary or acidic snack or drink, instead rinse your mouth with water and wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth. Brushing while enamel is in a soft, weakened state will cause further dental damage.
Can’t Sleep? See Your Dentist:
Insomnia may be caused by dental conditions and can be treated with an oral appliance - similar to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer - that a patient uses to help manage conditions such as snoring,
obstructive sleep apnea, and teeth grinding. Talk to your dentist, or see a dental sleep specialist who has been certified by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) or the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM).
What’s That Sound?
40-million Americans engage in bruxism – the formal term for teeth grinding
– and about 70% of all teeth grinding happens when we’re sleeping. It’s common for people to be totally unaware they are nocturnal gnashers. Grinding and clenching can, in the worst cases, weaken teeth, fracture fillings, crack crowns, and destroy dentures. Sore jaws, facial swelling, a clicking sound when you open your mouth, a dull constant headache that originates around the temples, tender teeth, and even indentations on your tongue are other typical signs. If you have any of these symptoms, check in with your dentist.
Know your Dentist:
Most of us choose a dentist based on referrals from friends or family or online reviews. But have you checked to see if your dentist is licensed to practice dentistry? You can view whether a dentist has a license, how long he or she has been licensed, and other information about the dentist’s professional record by searching your state licensing board’s
web site. You can also find out where the dentist went to school, if he or she holds a certification in one of the nine dental specialties, and whether the dentist has a permit to administer sedation or general anesthesia.
Be Nice To Your Dentist:
Your dentist can “fire” you if you consistently don’t show up for appointments, are behind on your payment plan, have not been truthful about your medical history or current health status, have been rude to the office staff or other patients, or disruptive to the practice’s ability to serve other patients. If you get fired, your dentist will notify you (usually be certified mail) and is then legally obliged to provide you with emergency care for 30 days.
What Lives Behind Your Lips?
Our mouths are an entire wild ecosystem, populated with living things that play a vital role in our well-being and confidence. A single mouth can be home to more than 6 billion bacteria, an impressive number when compared to 7.3 billion total human population of earth. Those billions of oral bacteria live in diverse communities, where they go about the business of life: being born, working, feeding, defecating, mating, and dying – yes, all this is happening right now in your mouth. And like most urban areas, your mouth has safe neighborhoods and scary ones. Some of the communities are comprised of pathogenic bacteria that cause decay, gum inflammation and tooth loss.
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