Learning how to take care of your teeth is as much a part of growing up as learning to tie your shoes, recite the alphabet, or memorize the multiplication tables. However, when it comes to our teeth, many of us still have a thing or two to learn. Here are 5 facts about your pearly whites that you might not know, even after all these years.
1. Your teeth’s best friend might not be your toothbrush.
Oh, sure, a toothbrush and a strand of floss wielded often and wisely will do wonders for your teeth. You should use both.
But your teeth’s first line of defense against what you put in your mouth is something that’s already there. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feed on sugars from food and drinks. That bacteria called plaque can stick to your teeth, producing acids that eat through the enamel on your teeth. Saliva, that trusty old friend, helps rinse out your mouth and neutralize that process. If you have a dry mouth, getting the same result could be tough. People who take lots of meds can be especially susceptible to dry mouth and possible tooth decay. Another good choice: Keep a bottle of water handy. It’ll do your teeth some good.
2. Snacking and sipping may be hurting your teeth.
Worse than a big old piece of chocolate cake after dinner or that mid-afternoon Snickers break is the non-stop snack-snack-snacking or sip-sip-sipping that goes on in offices and schools across America.
Remember, the acids created by the bacteria that attack all that carbohydrate-laden stuff you swallow whether it’s that spoonful of sugar in your morning coffee or that nicely glazed donut is what get at your teeth. So the more often you eat sugars and other carbs, the more often those acids get a chance to chip away at your choppers.
In short, it’s better (for your teeth, at least) to pig out once than to eat a lot of little meals.
3. Yes, you can get too much fluoride, but…
The naturally occurring mineral fluoride can help prevent tooth decay. That’s not disputed.
How much fluoride is too much is the question. Because of ever-increasing sources, including naturally occurring; fluoride added to community water supplies; and what you get in mouthwashes, toothpastes, and elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended in 2010 to limit the amount of fluoride in community drinking water, dropping it from a previous range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter to a flat 0.7. Many people were concerned with cases of fluorosis, a condition that causes cosmetic white spots on teeth. But those cases are almost always mild or very mild. Still, it’s a good idea to make sure your community has safe levels of fluoride in its drinking water. Be careful how much other fluoride you use. And keep an eye out for kids. Children up to 3 should use a rice-sized smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Kids from 3-6 should use a pea-sized amount.
4. Toothpaste should be spat out, but not necessarily rinsed away.
Other than just being awfully gross, if you (or a kid in the house) makes a habit of swallowing toothpaste, you (or that kid) stand a chance of getting too much fluoride. As the tube says, don’t swallow.
But it’s not necessary to rinse afterward. He says you can rinse, but the longer the fluoride stays in contact with your teeth, the more effective it can have in preventing tooth decay.
5. Your teeth can be an indicator of your overall health.
One in 7 adults aged 35 to 44 has gum disease. For adults older than 65, that increases to 1 in every 4.
That’s a problem, because tooth decay and other infections in the mouth may be associated with health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
I think people need to realize that the bacteria and theinflammation associated with your body fighting the bacteria can affect other areas of the body. We don’t quite understand all of this yet. But we know there’s a link.