By Sgt. 1st Class Kristen Arredondo
Special to GUIDON
The importance of oral health reaches far beyond the mouth. Research has shown links between gum disease and other significant health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Early detection and treatment of problems with gums, teeth and mouth can help ensure a lifetime of good oral health. Scheduling an annual cleaning and exam with a dentist is recommended to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems.
Keep your mouth healthy by following these easy tips:
For better dental health, avoid smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco products. Both cigarettes and chewing tobacco are toxic to your body. Not only do they give you bad breath, but they also discolor your teeth, cause sores, tooth loss, and diseases of the mouth, gums, and throat.
Brush teeth and gums
Brush for two minutes at least twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste. Choose a soft-bristled brush that fits and place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Remember to brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of the teeth, and don’t forget to brush the tongue to remove bacteria and keep breath fresh. Invest in a new toothbrush every three months, or sooner if the bristles fray.
Floss teeth daily
It is nearly impossible to reach the bacteria in the tight spaces between your teeth with a toothbrush, and this is why flossing is important. The American Dental Association recommends cleaning between teeth once a day. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Cleaning between teeth will also help prevent gum disease and cavities.
Limit sugary foods and drinks
Soft drinks, juices, sports and energy drinks provide huge amounts of sugars to many diets, and drinking too much can cause tooth decay and generate health problems. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than six teaspoons, and men no more than nine teaspoons, of added sugars per day.
To give a better picture, a 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew contains 11 teaspoons of sugar, while a 12-ounce Gatorade contains almost five teaspoons. It’s also not a good thing to compensate by switching to a diet or sugar free drink, as most always contain some form of added acid.
The refined sugar in these drinks, such as high fructose corn syrup, mixes with bacteria in the mouth and produces acid. This acid, along with the added acid in the drink, weakens tooth enamel and causes decay.
Drinking water is the best option, but if giving up sugary or acidic drinks is not feasible, then take these steps to reduce the risk of tooth decay:
— Don’t sip on these drinks all day. Constant sipping exposes teeth to prolonged sugar and acid. Attempt to drink the entire beverage within a 15-minute time frame.
— Drink these drinks in moderation, and try to limit them to no more than one 12-ounce can per day.
— Use a straw that reaches to the back of the tongue when consuming these drinks.
— Rinse with water, or chew a sugar-free/xylitol gum after drinking these drinks. The water will dilute the sugar and acid, and gum has been shown to discourage tooth decay.
— Brush teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least once to remove plaque buildup between the teeth and along the gum line.
Remember that better oral health can mean a healthier life.
(Editor’s note: Arredondo is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the Roll Dental Clinic.)