Save Your Smile
A healthy mouth is easy to take for granted, but serious problems with your teeth or gums can have a major effect on your daily life. Prevent these problems and protect your smile by making oral health a part of your everyday routine.
What Is Oral Health?
Oral diseases refer to any problems having to do with your mouth. They include tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer. Tooth decay (cavities) is a breakdown of tooth enamel caused by bacteria found in plaque. It’s a common problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),* 26 percent of adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay.
The CDC also reports that about 4 in 10 Americans ages 30 and older show signs of gum (periodontal) disease, which is caused by infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that support the teeth. Serious cases can lead to tooth loss.
Cancer that develops in any part of the mouth is known as oral cancer. The CDC reports oral cancer caused more than 10,000 deaths in 2016. The Mayo Clinic* lists the following risk factors:
- Tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco
- Excessive alcohol use
- Overexposure to the sun
- Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus
- A weak immune system
If you’re bothered by lip or mouth sores that won’t heal, loose teeth or other unusual symptoms, see your dentist. Early detection is important in the successful treatment of oral cancer.
There’s good news: You can take simple steps to prevent cancer and other serious oral health problems. Here are some suggestions from the CDC:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss every day. Flossing can remove plaque that you can’t reach through brushing.
- See a dentist for a checkup at least once a year.
- Avoid tobacco products. Don’t smoke.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol.
- If you experience sudden changes in your senses of taste or smell, see a doctor or dentist.
Chew on This
When it comes to eating a healthy diet, you already know that not all foods are created equal. But did you know that certain foods and drinks are better for your teeth than others? Bacteria that can cause gum disease and tooth decay thrive on foods high in starch and sugar.
Limit your intake of sticky candies, soft drinks and starchy foods, such as potato chips, that can get stuck in your teeth. If your sweet tooth will not be denied, chocolate is probably your best option because it washes off your teeth faster than other candies do.
Eat more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and dairy products. Instead of soda, drink green or black teas. Choose sugarless gum, and drink plenty of water.
Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is important for your quality of life, so don’t forget your toothbrush!
*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic are independent organizations that provide health information you may find helpful.