After all the sweets and goodies of the holiday season and the treats that often accompany Valentine’s Day, February actually marks an appropriate time to pay closer attention to your dental health. February happens to be both Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month and National Gum Disease Awareness Month. Celebrate by taking back your dental health with some easy tips to prevent tooth decay and gum disease and to maintain the overall health of your mouth.
Learn Proper Brushing Techniques
Most people know that brushing their teeth is essential to good oral hygiene, and most are aware that they should brush twice daily: in the morning and just before bed. However, many people neglect brushing at night. Brushing just before bed is imperative because it removes germs and plaque that accumulate on teeth throughout the day. The way you brush is just as important as frequency. It’s important to take your time when you brush and follow these rules of thumb:
- Spend about two minutes to do a thorough job.
- Move the brush in gentle, circular motions to remove plaque on all surfaces of your teeth.
- Brush your tongue as well as your teeth, as odor-causing plaque can build up on your tongue.
Choosing the correct brushing equipment significantly improves dental health as well. Among all of the options on the market, choose a toothpaste containing fluoride. Fluoride works to strengthen tooth enamel and fight decay-causing bacteria. Additionally, choose a soft-bristled toothbrush either manual or powered, that comfortably fits your mouth. Replace your toothbrush every three months, or sooner if the bristles begin to fray.
Make Dental Health Fun for Children
Children’s Dental Health Month brings together dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children. Parents and other caregivers play a huge role in encouraging healthy dental habits for children. Unfortunately, children often resist efforts to get them to brush and floss. Creating lifelong oral hygiene habits may take some creativity to make the activities more enjoyable and maybe even fun!
Begin by letting your little one pick out their brushing supplies. Help them choose a brush and toothpaste formulated for children. Find a brush with their favorite character or a toothpaste in their favorite flavor. Then, put those supplies into action.
Consider making dental health a family affair. Brushing as a family will help the activity seem less like a chore. Furthermore, you will be able to supervise your child’s efforts and fit in time for your own oral health.
Remember the Importance of Gum Health
With National Gum Disease Awareness Month underway, remember that oral health goes beyond teeth: your gums are just as important! The gums surround your teeth to protect them and the underlying bone. Neglecting gum health can lead to plaque build up along your gum line and cause gum disease. Additionally, researchers have found that people with gum disease are two times more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. Gum disease, or gingivitis, may cause tender, inflamed gums that are prone to bleeding. Periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, can ruin the bones, gums, and tissues that support your teeth. If not properly treated by a dentist, the teeth may eventually have to be removed.
Floss & Eat Well
Flossing is just as important as brushing, but research shows that many people neglect to floss regularly. Unfortunately, a toothbrush cannot reach the bacteria in tight spaces between teeth. That’s where flossing comes in. Flossing reduces plaque, stimulates the gums, and helps lessen gum inflammation. Flossing once a day is recommended to reap these benefits.
Furthermore, the benefits of a healthy diet are vast and even extend to oral health.
Schedule Regular Dentist Visits
Daily oral hygiene habits are crucial to overall oral health. However, even the most diligent brushers and flossers need to visit a dentist regularly. Check-ups with your dentist will help remove plaque build-up, search for cavities, and spot any other potential issues. Beyond dental health, routine oral health exams can uncover symptoms of diabetes, osteoporosis and low bone mass.
Many people avoid the dentist simply because they don’t like going. Others stay away because of the associated expenses. Having or obtaining dental health insurance is highly recommended to cover the cost of dentist visits. While the cost of dental insurance may seem like a burden, it can pale in comparison to the cost of some dental care services without insurance. Overall, insured individuals are more likely to visit the dentist: 85% of individuals with dental benefits reported seeing a dentist twice a year or more, versus 66% of uninsured individuals.
Most dental insurance plans cover preventive care and a cleaning in full every six months, and most cover some extent of restorative care, endodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics and more.
Make Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits a Priority
Stain-free and straight teeth may be your goal, but healthy teeth often go beyond the surface. Dental health involves the condition of your teeth, gums and mouth. Among the other dental tips outlined, brushing, flossing and regular dentist appointments are great ways to set you and your family up for a lifetime of good oral hygiene. Take time this month to begin establishing habits for beautiful and healthy smiles for your entire family.