How to keep your teeth for life
Does it sound 'too good to be true' to keep your teeth for life? Well, it IS entirely possible!
However, similar to how diet and exercise are used to keep us fit, dental fitness also requires constant, regular actions - that might not make a noticeable different on the day-to-day level - but are actually very important to keeping your smile - and YOU - healthy overall.
Here are our best tips for maintaining your smile for a lifetime:
1) Get into the habit of seeing your dentist regularly - at the very least, every 6 months for cleaning and check up.
Go more frequently if you have issues that need to be address or a special circumstance like periodontal disease or a propensity towards decay - all of which need more attention. We really cannot stress this enough. Dentists are professionals - so we can identify and notify you of anything that is problematic or potentially problematic if no action is taken.
When you come in for hygiene and check up, we remove sticky plaque and tartar build-up, which cannot be removed by brushing alone. This helps reduce inflammation around the gums (that can otherwise lead to recession) and reduce the amount of debris stuck on your teeth (that can otherwise cause decay). We're also taking a good look around to make sure that there are no existing problems.
Can you always see or feel a cavity? No. Can you tell if your gums have receded - either visually or through feel? No. We suppose it is a blessing and a curse that smaller dental issues don't often cause pain. It's obviously good that we don't experience discomfort (because dental issues are the worst - right??) Unfortunately, it's also bad in a way because if you don't feel anything, you may not feel that urgency to take actions to fix these issues - until it becomes a big issue. But...when it becomes a bigger issue - it can escalate to 'really, really bad'. As one example, if you have gum recession and don't address the issue, it can recede so much that your teeth fall out. Not. Even. Exaggerating. Sure, it might be more or less pain free, but who wants a big gap in their smile? If you start addressing the issue at this point, there will be fewer options available to you, usually more costly options, and usually more invasive options. Well, let's just say it's easier to get active gum treatment when you have mild periodontal disease than waiting for your perio problems to escalate, your gums to recede, waiting for the gums to recede so much that a tooth (or teeth!) to fall out, seeing if implants (bridges or dentures) are even a viable solution and placing a prosthesis.
The quicker you take action to maintain what you have and to fix what's broken, the better your smile will age over time! Even if, by chance you lose one or two teeth, it can still affect your overall oral health, so don't hesitate to ask us about your options when the issues are detected.
2) Take excellent care of your teeth at home.
This means brushing for 2 minutes or more and spending at least 30 seconds in each quadrant, at least twice a day. It means brushing all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly (not just that swipe-swipe motion they do on TV!) - the top surfaces, the surfaces facing your inner cheeks and the surfaces facing the tongue side. And don't forget to go allllll the way to the back teeth - those also need attention, on all of the surfaces we've discussed thus far. If you have an electric toothbrush, great! However, this does not mean you get to skimp out on the time spent on your teeth! It'll still be a recommendation of 2 minutes or more.
It's also super, super, super important to brush and stimulate your gum tissues. If you're not in the habit of brushing the gums, please start. Please note, that in these beginning stages, your gum tissues may become temporarily inflamed (because they're not used to being brushed!), but continue cleaning them thoroughly (but gently) every time you brush. Keep at it and your gum tissues will toughen up and be stronger and healthier and they'll hold and support your teeth to last a lifetime. It is important to note that, similar to your teeth, you're applying gentle pressure (yes, we had to say it again for emphasis!) but you're paying attention to getting all the surfaces - so the gums facing your inner cheeks and the gums facing the tongue side - all the way to the back of your mouth.
Each time you brush, remember to floss. You can either floss first, then brush or vice versa. Just remember to do it! Especially if your dentist says you have a lot of cavities happening between your teeth (and even if he/she does not, LOL). The main driving point is this: your toothbrush can't get in between the teeth easily, which means that if you're not flossing, there could be a lot of gunk getting trapped in there. And staying there for hours. And contributing to gum inflammation and decay. The more proactive you get about keeping food particles and cavity-causing microorganisms, the greater chance your teeth and gums stay healthy. If you've never flossed before, you may at first experience sensitive, irritated gums. Similar to brushing them, keep at it daily and the cleaner you get these areas, the less bleeding you'll experience.
It is important to address at this point, that a few years ago, there were some 'news articles' circulating across the internet which suggested that 'flossing was not necessary'. They suggested that while flossing was effective for dental professionals, 'regular folk' didn't do it properly, so people should just give up the practice. That is absurd. If you don't know how to floss, ask a dental professional to guide you. Our team can show you and guide you on how to brush and floss effectively. You just have to remember to do it from there!
3) Make sure all dental appliances and prostheses are clean before use
This may include dental appliances such as removable dentures, retainers, aligner trays, night guards and sleep apnea dental devices. Anything that goes on your teeth should also be clean - including careful attention to orthodontic wires and brackets. You should also be thoroughly caring for restorations like crowns and permanent dentures. In the case of bridges, cleaning underneath them is important. Unfortunately, dental restorations are never as strong as your natural teeth, but the better you take care of the gums around a crown (as an example), the longer it'll last for you.
4) Being mindful of the foods and drinks you're consuming
Limiting foods and beverages with sugar is important - especially constantly grazing on them. Minimizing or reducing contact with acids like citrus or fermented foods can also help to preserve the enamel of your teeth. It doesn't mean you have to remove them from your life completely, but it might be in your best interest to rinse your mouth after enjoying these foods. You can try a reusable straw, if you're having sugary beverages or citrus drinks. You can also change your eating habits, so instead of constant grazing throughout the day, stick to main meals - and maybe brushing about 30 minutes after consumption.
Load up on calcium-rich foods like dairy and broccoli. Load up on phosphorus-rich foods like eggs and fish. Your teeth and bones also rely on nutrients like vitamin D to help increase uptake of calcium - so reach for foods like tuna, salmon and liver. Since vitamins K and C as well as other minerals like potassium and more, choose a varied diet rich in nutrients - which may mean less of the sugary processed stuff and more whole foods like veggies and whole grains.
5) Address dental issues as soon as they come up
As mentioned earlier, earlier stages of decay and disease are way easier to address than later stages. A problem with one tooth or one section of your gums is never just about that one pin point - it can escalate and it can affect the entire mouth.
Visualize a decayed tooth as an example. By taking no action while it's just a tiny hole, the hole becomes bigger or deeper or both. Let's say it hits the nerve - which can be quite uncomfortable, but again, imagine that this person still does nothing. They have the option of getting a root canal treatment and post-core crown, but they decide not to. Let's say it gets past the point where it is saveable and it is either extracted or it falls out by itself. Problem solved? Not so much. At this point, an implant may be recommended to preserve the existing jaw bone as well as replace the tooth. Alternatively, a bridge or denture may be placed to hold the teeth in place, but they will do nothing to preserve bone structure of your jaw. Assuming this person follows the same pattern of taking no action, other neighbouring teeth can drift towards the space, making an uneven, crooked smile. The tooth that was directly above or underneath the missing tooth will hyper erupt. Since it no longer has something to bite against, it just grows outward. This could lead to damaged teeth - because they're knocking into each other in an unusual way. This could expose the roots of the hyper erupted tooth, causing sensitivity. This could result in the loss of this tooth (and if this is the case, could result in drift of the remaining teeth on this arch).
Obviously, this is an extreme example, but it doesn't need to happen if issues are addressed as they come.