Strong, healthy teeth can give you a beautiful smile and go a long way toward making the right first impression. But healthy gums and teeth aren’t just about making an impression; they can impact your overall health too.
Poor oral health can lead to swollen gums, toothaches, and sensitive as well as loose teeth. Moreover, bacteria that attack your teeth and gums can also invade the bone structure supporting your teeth. Your body reacts to these oral infections by developing inflammation. And some experts think that inflammation can even affect blood vessels and lessen blood flow to your heart and other parts of your body. Bacteria may also pass into your blood stream from your gums and form a part of plaque in your blood vessels. This can have implications for your overall health. In fact, some evidence seems to suggest that people who have good oral health tend to have fewer chronic illnesses like heart disease.1 So it’s critically important that you take good care of your teeth. Here are some ideas on how you can look after your teeth:
id="keep-them-clean">1. Keep Your Teeth Clean
Keeping your teeth clean is perhaps the most important part of keeping your teeth healthy:
A film of bacteria known as plaque tends to coat your teeth. You need to clear this film by brushing your teeth.
- You should ideally brush twice a day. Brush right before going to bed and once more during the day. Make sure you cover all the surfaces of your teeth. This should take around 2 minutes.
- Dentists recommend using a fluoride toothpaste as the fluoride makes the enamel of your teeth harder, protecting it from decay. Your toothpaste should have about 1350 ppm fluoride if you’re an adult. But if the raging (and unresolved) debate around fluoride usage has left you wary, you can always opt for an Ayurvedic paste or teeth cleansing powder. More on that later.
- Using a toothbrush with a small head will give you better access to your molars right at the back. 2 And remember to replace your toothbrush once every three months.
- Spit out the toothpaste in your mouth after you brush, but don’t rinse immediately. Rinsing can dilute the fluoride in your mouth and lessen its penetrative impact.
Flossing once a day helps to remove food stuck between your teeth and also eliminates plaque from your gum line.
How To Floss: Hold 12 to 18 inches of dental floss taut between your hands and slip it in between your teeth and the space between your teeth and gum line. About 8 to 10 strokes up and down will help dislodge plaque and food. And remember it’s better to floss before you brush your teeth.
Use A Mouthwash
Using a mouthwash with fluoride can be helpful in protecting your teeth from decay.3 But avoid using a mouthwash immediately after your brush your teeth so that you don’t wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste. It might make sense to use your mouthwash after you have a meal. However, do take care not to drink or eat anything for half an hour after you use a fluoride mouthwash.
2. Follow The Ayurvedic Route To Healthy Teeth
The ancient science of ayurveda places a lot of importance on oral health. Ayurveda recommends practices like the use of chewing sticks and oil pulling as part of routine dental care. However, according to this medical system, your individual constitution also plays a role in determining your dental health care plan.
Oil pulling, a procedure that involves swishing oil in your mouth to take care of dental health, is mentioned in the ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita where it is known as Kavala. This procedure has been found to reduce harmful oral bacteria, reduce plaque, tackle dry mouth, and treat gum disease.6
How To Oil Pull: Oil pulling is best done early in the morning on an empty stomach. Sit comfortably with your chin slightly raised and take a tablespoon of sesame oil into your mouth. Now pull and suck the oil between your teeth for about 10 to 15 minutes so that it turns thin and milky white. Spit out the oil. Be careful not to swallow this oil as it now contains harmful oral bacteria.
Caution: Do keep in mind that oil pulling might not be suitable for children under the age of 5 as there’s a chance that they might swallow the oil or choke.
Ayurveda advises you to use chewing sticks in the morning and after meals to take care of your teeth. Ideally, a herbal chewing stick should be about 9 inches long with the width of your little finger. You are supposed to crush one end of the stick and chew on it. This is considered to level biting surfaces and stimulate the secretion of saliva. Some herbal sticks also have antibacterial properties and could possibly help control plaque.
- It is recommended that people with vata dosha (dominated by the elements of air and space) should use chewing sticks with bittersweet or astringent tastes. For instance, sticks of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) or the cutch tree (Acacia Catechu Linn.).
- Those with pitta dosha (dominated by the elements of fire and water) are advised to use chewing sticks with a bitter taste such as the twigs from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) and the arjuna tree (Terminalia arjuna).
- If kapha dosha (dominated by the elements of earth and water) is predominant, it is recommended that you use chewing sticks with a pungent taste. For instance, sticks from the fever nut (Caesalipinia bonduc) and the milkweed plant (Calotropis procera).
An Ayurvedic Toothpaste Or Cleanser
While ayurveda doesn’t generally recommend using a toothpaste with a chewing stick, you can still choose from many natural toothpastes with ingredients such as neem, black pepper, salt, and turmeric. A cleansing tooth powder made with cinnamon, prickly ash bark, ginger, black pepper, and rock salt will also help keep your teeth clean and fresh. Simply mix with water or sesame oil, dab some on your tooth brush and use this for brushing.7
Consume Certain Herbs
In ayurveda, teeth are considered part of bone tissue (asthi dhatu) and, therefore, herbs which strengthen the skeleton and joints are thought to be good for the health of the teeth too. The healing effects of these herbs take a while to kick in since they must saturate the entire body to impact the gums. However, their effects are thought to be long lasting.
3. Strengthen Your Teeth With A Healthy Diet
What you eat and drink can have a significant impact on the health of your teeth. Here are some common dietary items that can keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Water plays an important part in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Fluoridated water, which is available on tap in most places in the U.S., is particularly useful as it helps your teeth resist cavity-forming acids from food.
Don’t Neglect Dairy
Milk as well as dairy products like yogurt and cheese contain protein and are rich sources of calcium which serves to strengthen your teeth.
Get In Some Protein
Protein helps to strengthen tooth enamel. Go for sources of protein like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and milk which also contain phosphorus, another substance that can strengthen your teeth.
Have Fruits And Veggies
Fruits and veggies are important components of a balanced and healthy diet. They have significant amounts of fiber and water which balance out their sugar content and helps to keep teeth clean. They are also foods that need to be chewed. Chewing stimulates the production of saliva which serves to wash away food particles and acids.
Go For Nuts
Nuts contain beneficial minerals as well as proteins which are good not only for your dental set but your overall health as well. These crunchy snacks also encourage chewing which can increase saliva and lessen your risk of tooth decay.9
4. Avoid These Teeth Wreckers
Let’s take a look at some substances which can damage your teeth:
Sugar is used by the bacteria that form plaque to produce acids that damage tooth enamel. Beverages like carbonated soft drinks are acidic and high in sugar – both of which can cause harm to your teeth.
Even fruit juices contain sugars that can damage your teeth. It’s recommended to not drink more than one small glass (150 ml) of fruit or vegetable juice a day. Also, it is advisable to have fruit juices or smoothies along with your meals or water so that the sugar is washed off from the surface of your teeth.
Chewing on things like hard candy and ice chips can damage the enamel of your teeth and might leave you with a chipped or broken tooth.
Exposing your teeth to acidic foods can erode the enamel of your teeth over time and leave them more vulnerable to decay. So while citrus fruits can be full of healthy nutrients and adding a little lime juice can turn plain old water into a delicious beverage, it might not be the best thing for your teeth. You might be able to cheat a little though by using a straw that can help your teeth avoid acidic juices. 10 Washing away fruit acids by drinking water afterward can also be helpful.
Sticky foods can be harmful since they stay in contact with your teeth longer than other foods. For instance, jelly beans, caramels, and some dried fruits like dates tend to be sugary as well as sticky – making them doubly dangerous. If you do eat foods like sticky dried fruits, make sure you rinse your mouth with water afterward.
Further, some foods like potato chips can trap starch in between your teeth. Take particular care when you brush and floss to clear out any bits that might be caught between your teeth if you have them.
Alcohol can erode tooth enamel as well as lead to a dry mouth and dehydration.11 Over time, people who drink alcohol excessively might find that they have less saliva. This increases the risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Heavy consumption of alcohol can also increase your risk of oral cancer.
Smoking is associated with serious health risks like heart disease and cancer. It is also bad for your teeth. Smoking can stain your teeth, up your chances of getting gum disease, and give you bad breath.12
The combination of heavy drinking and smoking is particularly bad – it’s estimated that you have a 38% higher risk of mouth cancer if you indulge in both when compared to people who don’t smoke or drink.
Cigarettes, wine, coffee, and tea can all stain your teeth. Limit consumption to keep your teeth white and stain free. The caffeine in coffee and tea can also dry your mouth out making it easier for germs to thrive.13
5. Start Young: Dental Hygiene For Babies And Kids
It’s never too early to start taking care of your teeth. In fact, as soon as your baby’s teeth start to develop, you can begin a brushing routine.
- Make use of a baby toothbrush with a small dab of toothpaste till your child is around 3 years old. You can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children between 3 and 6 years of age.
- To brush your baby’s teeth, sit her on your lap with her head against your chest. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t manage to clean her teeth properly at first. Focus on getting her used to brushing twice a day in the beginning and slowly start brushing her teeth more thoroughly. As your child grows a little older, it might be helpful to stand behind her and tilt her head back while you brush her teeth.
- Do supervise your child while she’s brushing to make sure that she’s brushing properly and that she doesn’t eat or lick toothpaste. You child might need some help with brushing till she’s about 7 years old.
As already mentioned, sugar can lead to tooth decay. It’s not just about the amount of sugar that you consume but also the length of time that your teeth are in contact with it.14 This is why feeding sweet drinks through a bottle can be particularly damaging as it can bathe your child’s teeth in sugar for quite a while. For the same reason, lollipops can also be harmful to your child’s teeth.
6. Don’t Miss Your Dentist’s Appointment
It’s a good idea to schedule regular appointments with your dentist so that problems can be caught and fixed early.15 Your dentist might also recommend a professional cleaning once in 6 months which can help get rid of plaque from areas that are difficult to reach.
Let your dentist know if you have a toothache or are sensitive to hot or cold drinks as these may be signs of a cavity. Symptoms like swollen or red gums, bleeding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath may be indicative of gum disease and should also not be ignored.
|↑1||Heart Disease, Stroke & Oral Health. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.|
|↑2||10 tips to look after your teeth.
|↑3||How to keep your teeth clean. National Health Service.|
|↑4||Premanath, Ramya, J. Sudisha, N. Lakshmi Devi, and S. M. Aradhya. “Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum L.) leaves.” Res J Med Plants 5 (2011): 695-705.|
|↑5||Brunette, D. M. “Effects of baking-soda-containing dentifrices on oral malodor.” Compendium of continuing education in dentistry.(Jamesburg, NJ: 1995). Supplement 18, no. 21 (1996): S22-32.|
|↑6||Sirisha, Kondreddy, and P. Kamala Devi. “INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN DENTISTRY.”|
|↑7||Shunya, Acharya. Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom: A Complete Prescription to Optimize Your Health, Prevent Disease, and Live with Vitality and Joy. Sounds True, 2017.|
|↑8||Singh, Abhinav, and Bharathi Purohit. “Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine 2, no. 2 (2011): 64.|
|↑9||Good Foods for Dental Health. American Dental Association.|
|↑10||When you need a drink. Dental Health Services. Government of Western Australia.|
|↑11||Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth. American Dental Association.|
|↑12, ↑13||Lifestyle tips for healthy teeth. National Health Service.|
|↑14||Looking after your baby’s teeth. National Health Service.|
|↑15||Dental care – adult. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|