The Gateway to the Body

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Commonly Asked Questions About Dental Hygiene

Studies have shown that a healthy mouth promotes good overall health. According to the Surgeon General’s Report 2000, 40 percent of bacteria found in patients with heart disease comes from the mouth.

“The mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body,” said Dustin Reynolds, DDS, a board-certified endodontist at Forest Hill Endodontics.

To help you improve your daily dental hygiene, Reynolds and Sheppard Sittason, DDS, partner in ownership at Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics of Lynchburg, answered some commonly asked questions.

How long and when should I be brushing?
Most dentists typically agree that you should brush your teeth for a full two minutes. “An easy way to do this is to divide the mouth into four quadrants and spend about 30 seconds in each quadrant,” said Reynolds. If that’s difficult, some electronic toothbrushes have timers built into them that beep after brushing for 30 seconds. “There are a few phone apps that can help make it fun for kids to brush the correct amount of time,” said Sittason. Sittason also says it’s important to brush at least two times a day, and especially before bedtime.

Does the type of toothbrush matter?
It is crucial to be selective in what you are brushing with and there are a lot of different options at the store. “We recommend that everyone use a soft bristled brush,” said Sittason. “Brushing with firm bristles can cause damage to your teeth or gums.”

Are cleanings every six months necessary?
“Six-month check-ups are extremely important in maintaining good oral health. For some patients, it may even be necessary to see your dentist every three months for professional cleanings,” said Reynolds.

Professional cleanings are critical because your teeth get thoroughly cleaned, even the hard-to-reach areas. Routine check-ups also allow the dentist to perform an oral exam, which detects cavities and other oral problems such as signs of cancer or disease.

“Prevention is key,” said Reynolds. “Taking your time to see your dentist every six months may save you a lot of time, money and additional dental work in the future.”
Do I really need to floss?

Flossing might not be the most enjoyable task, but it is essential and should be done on a regular basis. The American Dental Association suggests that people should floss at least once a day.

“It’s really the only way to clean between your teeth,” said Sittason. “Food particles and bacteria can get in between your teeth, but the bristles of your toothbrush won’t fit.”

“Flossing gets into the hard-to-reach spaces between the teeth and prevents plaque from forming hard-to-remove deposits, known as calculus,” said Reynolds. “Flossing is just as important as brushing and promotes a healthy mouth, prevents bad breath and tooth decay.”

How much does what I eat and drink affect my teeth?
Drinking and eating foods that are high in sugar or acid can lead to tooth decay.

For a tooth to decay, there are several things that have to happen. First you have a “host” (a tooth), bacteria (which is naturally in the mouth), food for the bacteria (sugar), and then, lastly, time. The combination of these four things will inevitably lead to tooth decay.

“The bacteria feeds off of the sugars present in plaque on your teeth and produces acid, which in time, eats away at the enamel of your teeth, causing decay,” said Reynolds.

Soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar as do energy drinks, fruit juices, and even milk. And don’t think you are in the clear with those diet drinks.

“Diet drinks solve the problem of sugar, but these drinks actually have a higher acid content and can be just as harmful to your teeth,” said Reynolds. “The best drink is water!”

I can’t give up soda completely. Is there anything I can do to make a difference?

“Sugar is really bad for your teeth, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate it from your diet,” said Reynolds. “If you slowly sip on a soft drink all day long, you are more likely to get tooth decay than if you were to just sit down and drink the same soda at one sitting.”

Sipping your soda with a straw is a good idea, so that the sugar does not come in direct contact with your teeth.

It is also vital to brush and floss your teeth after consuming types of foods and drinks with sugar, preventing the sugars from sitting on your teeth. However, it is recommended that you wait about 30 minutes so you do not spread the sugar throughout the rest of your mouth.

“There is no substitute for your natural teeth. The ability to chew, taste, speak, swallow and smile is significantly reduced for those who no longer have their natural teeth,” Reynolds said. “The best advice for caring for your teeth is prevention.”

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About Author

Megan L. Horst graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communications, specializing in print journalism, and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Theological Studies. Megan is currently a freelance writer, managing editor of the Magnum Opus Magazine, and director/founder of Ecclesia School of the Arts (EcclesiaArts.com).

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