Heed These Tips for Your Healthiest Mouth Ever

They say your eyes are the windows to your soul. If that’s the case, then your teeth are the windows to your overall health. In fact, not only can your oral health offer serious clues about your overall health, but any issues you may have in your mouth could seriously affect the rest of your body, and not necessarily in a good way. So what’s at stake? Poor oral health can lead to a variety of health problems including endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of your heart), cardiovascular disease, and premature birth and low birth weight. Plus, in some diseases like diabetes, periodontal disease can lower the body’s resistance to infection. “Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is extraordinarily important for overall good health,” says Dr. Edward A Alvarez, DDS PC, who is based in New York City, New York. “The good news is that taking care of your teeth and oral health doesn’t have to be difficult or cumbersome.” Here are some top ways to keep your teeth (and, in turn, your overall body) healthy.

BRUSH YOUR TEETH
It may seem obvious, but brushing is the number-one thing—with flossing right behind it—you can do to keep your teeth healthy; however, not all brushing is created equal. In fact, how you brush, what you brush with, and what toothpaste you use all play a role in keeping your pearly whites healthy and, well, pearly white. Gently brush your teeth on all sides with a softbristle brush, advises Alvarez. Adds Dr. William Crutchfield, DDS, an orthodontist in Washington, DC: “Leaving food on and between teeth is what breaks down the enamel and causes long-term damage. The age-old wisdom of avoiding over-exposure to sugary foods or drinks remains true. For adults, many people forget alcoholic beverages have lots of sugar as well. So make sure, if you’ve been out on the town, brush your teeth before bed to maintain your best smile.”

SKIP THE TOOTHPICK
Your tools of choice when getting in between your teeth should be limited to dental floss and Waterpiks—not toothpicks or random items with sharp corners (read: business cards). “While not as popular in recent years as before, toothpicks are dangerous for dental health,” explains Crutchfield. “Floss, Waterpiks, and brushing are much safer and won’t damage the roots of your teeth. For those with cosmetic dentistry, toothpicks can chip or loosen the bond of veneers making for a costly habit.”

STEER CLEAR OF STAINS
Foods that stain, that is. “Patients should be aware that foods that are acidic, such as tomato sauce, citrus dishes, and drinks such as lemonade can soften the enamel,” says Alvarez. “It is important to rinse after such meals if possible. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks will cause your mouth to dry out, and that can lead to greater plaque and tartar build up, and to cavities.”

KNOW YOUR MEDS
“Patients on medications, such as antidepressants, thyroid medication, high blood pressure medications, and others, should use a fluoride rinse daily, as those medications can cause dry mouth, which can lead to decay,” explains Alvarez. “Hydrating with lots of water during the day is very important when taking medications.”

Pearly Whites

Want to get the whitest teeth on the block? Consider these at-home treatments, but check with your dentist to make sure the method is right for you.

Crest 3D White Strips

“There are lots of products on the market nowadays for whitening, but what I use and my family uses is Crest 3D White Strips,” says Dr. William Crutchfield, an orthodontist in Washington, DC.

Activated Charcoal

“You can take some charcoal powder (please make sure it’s medical grade) and lightly brush with it after mixing it with some distilled water,” says Dr. Edward A Alvarez, DDS PC, who is based in New York City, New York. “The charcoal is abrasive, so it will remove any build up and external stain on the teeth.”

Baking Soda

“Much like charcoal, baking soda is an abrasive substance that will polish off external stain and plaque that gives teeth that dark, yellow appearance,” says Alvarez. “Baking soda also serves as a buffer to raise the pH of the mouth, which will pull out the tannins from your teeth.”

Coconut Oil

“Oil pulling with coconut oil (where we hold coconut oil in our mouths for ten to twenty minutes while swishing it around, and then spitting) has great benefits,” says Alvarez. “The coconut oil will break down the plaque that has that nasty, pasty yellow look to it. Plaque that hardens becomes tartar, which can sometimes not only look yellow, but also brown, or even green.”

Article written by guest blogger Blake Miller.