Tooth decay and gum disease occur in both children and adults. Yet, when you keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong, these problems are preventable. Four components are crucial to your plan for strong teeth and healthy gums: a healthy diet, good oral hygiene, use of fluorides and regular professional cleanings. Not only will this help protect you against oral disease, but it can also help you to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Proper nutrition is critical for developing teeth and gums to ensure that they are resistant to tooth decay and gum disease. It's important that pregnant women and young children eat a diet rich in vitamins A, C and D, calcium and phosphorus, as well as protein. This means drinking lots of low-fat milk and eating foods such as meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits and cheeses. Good nutrition remains important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums in adults. Avoiding sugary sweets is also important. Bacteria in your mouth use sugars to create acids that dissolve tooth enamel and cause gum disease. Carbohydrates in moderation, however, help sustain healthy, strong teeth and gums as part of a balanced diet.
Use of Fluoride
Fluoride, which is easily absorbed into tooth enamel, strengthens your teeth, making them more resistant to decay-causing acids. Fluoride may also repair early-stage tooth decay by promoting remineralization of tooth enamel. Many communities add safe amounts of fluoride to their water supplies as an effective method to reduce cavities. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends drinking fluoridated tap water and the use of topical fluoride products, such as toothpastes, gels and rinses. Fluoride supplements are often prescribed for children when fluoridated water isn't available, and in-office fluoride treatments are encouraged.
Brushing and Flossing
Bacteria continually form a sticky film of plaque on your teeth and around your gums. When not cleaned off regularly, acids from bacterial plaque remove calcium from your teeth, weakening the enamel and eventually leading to cavities. The acids can also cause inflammation of your gums. The best protection against this threat is to thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day with anti-microbial toothpaste that contains fluoride. Using dental floss or inter-dental cleaners once a day will clean between your teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. In addition, you can use an anti-microbial mouthwash to reduce the amount of bacteria and plaque in your mouth.
Professional Dental Cleanings
If left to accumulate, bacterial plaque eventually hardens into tartar. Tartar traps bacteria around and under your gums, causing inflammation of the gum tissue, as well as loss of the bone around your teeth. Because hard deposits cannot be removed by tooth brushing, regular professional cleanings are needed to prevent gum disease. Your dentist or hygienist removes tartar with special instruments, then polishes your teeth to smooth the tooth surface and remove stains. To maintain strong, healthy gums, most dentists recommend that you have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year.
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: Policy on Dietary Recommendations for Infants, Children, and Adolescents
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: Policy on Use of Fluoride
- Centers for Disease Control: Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Decay in the United States
- Choose My Plate: Dietary Guidelines
- Know Your Teeth: How Does What I Eat Affect My Oral Health?
- Know Your Teeth: Daily Tips for Good Oral Hygiene
- American Dental Hygienists Association: CE Course 7: Diet and Nutrition Implications for Oral Health
- PubMed Health: Fact Sheet: Gingivitis and Periodontitis