Three Oral Health Tips You May Not Have Heard

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.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.