Many of us have heard common oral health tips from our relatives and local practitioners, such as daily flossing, brushing and the need for regular professional cleanings and checkups. Here are three tips that you may not know about and that you can easily incorporate into your daily life.
Conduct 'Self-Exams' for Signs of Oral Cancer
Like other forms of cancer, oral cancer can be serious if not treated early on. Detecting oral cancer as early as possible normally yields a better prognosis for patients. In addition to receiving regular oral examinations from your dentist – who is trained to look for signs of oral cancer – you can also practice self-exams at home. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) encourages patients to conduct this personal exam once a month with a mirror and a bright light. During self-checks, patients should look for abnormalities, such as red or white patches of discoloration and lumps along soft oral tissue. Oral cancer can develop anywhere inside of the mouth, including the lining of cheeks, the tongue, the soft tissue of the gums and the roof of the mouth.
Keep Your Toothbrush Clean and Dry
Most of us know that it is important to brush our teeth regularly – at least twice a day. However, because a toothbrush is an oral tool to remove food, plaque and other germs, it is important to store it properly to keep it clean and prevent bacterial buildup on the bristles. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends keeping your toothbrush upright when not in use so that it can dry, and not storing it in a closed container unless you're traveling. After brushing your teeth, rinse the bristles with warm water to thoroughly remove debris and remnants of used toothpaste. These precautions significantly reduce bacteria that can reenter your mouth the next day if you're not careful. Remember that a toothbrush should be thrown away after three or four months of use. If it's time for a new toothbrush, consider more dynamic tools, such as the Colgate® 360° Deep Clean for a more meticulous clean each time.
Chew Gum with Xylitol
In the past, you may have been told to avoid chewing gum because it can increase your risk of tooth decay. Although this is certainly true for the varieties of gum that contain sugar, there is a gum you can chew that won't harm your oral health – in fact, it may help prevent tooth decay by "starving" bacteria. According to the California Dental Association (CDA), gum and breath mints sweetened with xylitol can stop the growth of oral bacteria if used frequently. Sugar is bacteria's natural food source, and because xylitol is not a suitable food source for bacteria, it can kill off harmful strains that are responsible for tooth decay.
Along with thorough flossing and brushing, these oral health tips can protect you and your family's teeth and gums from the most common oral health conditions. Discuss your family's oral health routines with your dentist and remember to schedule regular checkups and cleanings.