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Protecting your oral health from common mistakes

When a story makes Newsweek, the topic is probably worth knowing about. For instance, “Six Easy Ways to Wreck Your Teeth,” published in the September 2007 issue.

Nasty breath? Big dental bills? Those might be the least of your problems if you’ve got bad oral health habits, according to the article.

Dr. Matthew Messina, American Dental Association spokesperson, tells Newsweek that while the exact mechanism remains unclear, studies have shown links between bacteria in the mouth and heart disease, diabetes and low-birthweight babies.

Newsweek itemizes the six tooth-defying mistakes people regularly make as follows:

  • Constant coffee baths: Americans, particularly office workers, have a tendency to sip and snack all day. Consuming carbohydrates, particularly sugars, activates the acid-producing bacteria that live on the surface of the teeth, leading to decay.
  • Dessert without dinner: Many people eat cakes, muffins and cupcakes as snacks, rather than after-meal treats. If you don’t have the willpower to cut sweet treats and sodas out of your diet, the article suggests trying to consume them as part of a main meal, when the decay-causing bacteria are already working. That way you limit your bacteria exposure to meal times instead of keeping them active.
  • Water deprivation: One of the most tooth-friendly times for drinking water is after eating. A glass of water after a meal will wash away food particles and bacteria, cleaning the mouth.
  • Tough love: If you adore chewy or sticky treats, or even popcorn kernels and ice, beware. These are among the best ways to stuff a long-lasting chunk of tooth-rotting bacteria into a hard-to-clean spot inside your mouth or even to crack a tooth.
  • Produce avoidance: Avoiding fruits and vegetables has oral consequences. They contain vitamins that are important for gums and prevent infections that may cause gums to inflame or bleed. Dr. Messina says the effect of malnutrition on gums is evident almost immediately.
  • Gumming up the works: If you can’t shake that addiction to the first chomp of sugary gum, try a little harder. Chewing sugar-free gum has all kinds of benefits, including increasing the production of saliva, which is the body’s natural mechanism for washing away food and neutralizing acid

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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