What Can Your Smile Say About Your Health?

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Regular check-ups are essential for maintaining dental health. Most people brush their teeth twice a day and may floss their teeth once in awhile, but do you know what your smile can say about your overall health? Attain and maintain a million-dollar smile with these tips from Dr. Amanda Cheng (D.M.D.):

Q: What are your five simple rules for good dental health?

Dr. Cheng:

  1. Daily use of fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinse will prevent dental cavities from developing. This is because early dental decay can be treated with fluoride to allow the enamel of your teeth to remineralize into a harder crystal known as Fluorapatite. Even the conventional drill and fill can be prevented with applications of fluoride varnish by your dentist two to three times a year.
  2. Chew gum that is sweetened with Xylitol because this sweetener has an anti-cavity effect and is not metabolized by Streptococcus Mutans (the primary cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth). In addition, chewing gum can naturally increase your salivary flow, which will clean your teeth.
  3. Use mouth wash twice a day to prevent gingivitis (gum disease) and bad breath. At the minimum, rinse your mouth with tap water each time after you eat to reduce bacteria and acidity in your mouth.
  4. Have dentists place sealants on permanent teeth that have deep grooves and fissures. This will block plaque and bacteria from accumulating in these fissures and cause tooth decay.
  5. Change your toothbrush after 3 months as it is a breeding ground for a wide variety of bacteria and fungi. Within your toothbrush are bacteria such as Pseudomonas and Klebsiella, which are the same bacteria that can also cause eye infections and diarrhea.

Q: Do you find a difference between the dental health of someone who follows a healthy diet and leads an active lifestyle versus someone who is overweight and has a generally sedentary lifestyle?

Dr. Cheng: People who are overweight often have poor eating habits such as snacking on chips and cookies with a lot fermentable carbohydrates.  Foods that cling to your teeth for a long time, such as toffee and raisins are more likely to cause tooth decay because they provide a constant fuel for mouth bacteria to survive, produce acid and attack your teeth. People with sedentary lifestyles are more prone to Type II diabetes and are at risk for more progressive periodontitis because high blood sugar can alter the immune response and lead to severe periodontal tissue destruction.

Q: Are there are any specific products that you would recommend to help improve your dental  health? What are some of your stand-by products?

Dr. Cheng: My top stand-by products are as follow:

  • Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Clinical Protection Flossis great because it so easy to use!
  • Listerine Zero which is alcohol free and antiseptic (kills bacteria).
  • Use a toothpaste that is less abrasive (Arms and Hammer OR Sensodyne)  and does not act like sandpaper against your teeth. Many of the whitening toothpaste permanently removes the outer layer of your teeth to make it look whiter which may lead to sensitivity. Here is a guide to finding a toothpaste that matches your tooth sensitivity.

Q: Flossing is often overlooked by teens and young people because they think it's not as important as brushing your teeth. Can you explain some other benefits of flossing?

Dr. Cheng: Flossing at least once a day is super important because your tongue can act as a physiological tooth brush but even the tip of your tongue is much too large to get in between your teeth. Hence, decay normally develops between the teeth due toa lack of flossing.

Q: Orthodontics can be best described as plastic surgery for your teeth. Although some teens do not want to get braces. What are some alternatives that they can take to improve the appearance of their teeth?

Dr. Cheng: Some aesthetic options to straighten teeth include clear aligners or lingual braces that are on the backside of teeth. Most teenagers actually go through a phase when they are eager to get braces because so many of their friends and classmates have braces and it is more socially acceptable.