Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. That’s why it’s so important to take care of it. Cavities aren’t just for little kids—you can get them at any age. When you consume sugary foods, soda, juice or energy drinks, you put yourself at risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Be smart. Always brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day.
If you have a bad bite or your teeth are crooked or out of alignment, you may benefit from braces. Braces can help improve your smile and make your teeth straighter. They can also improve your dental health and overall health because untreated orthodontic problems can make it hard to bite and chew and can interfere with eating. If you have a bad bite, you may also be prone to cavities or gum disease because it may be hard to clean your teeth. Braces come in many different styles, including tooth-colored plastic braces or traditional metal braces that come in a variety of colors. Removable clear retainers can sometimes be used. Talk to your dentist to see what the best choice is for you.
Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, get their name by being the last teeth to come in during young adulthood, the time of life when you gain maturity or “wisdom.” The majority of people have most of their permanent teeth by age 13. Your wisdom teeth should come into your mouth between the ages of 17-21. Sometimes they do not have enough room to come in normally or are in the wrong position to come straight up. When that happens, your dentist may refer to them as impacted and they may have to be removed.
Not everyone’s teeth develop on the same schedule. That’s why it’s important to see your dentist regularly so he or she can monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth. Every patient is unique, but in general, wisdom teeth may need to be removed when there is evidence of changes in the mouth such as:
- damage to adjacent teeth
- gum disease
- tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth)
Your dentist or specialist may also recommend removing your wisdom teeth to prevent problems or for others reasons, such as when removal is part of part of getting braces, treating gums or other dental procedures.
You know smoking is bad for you in general, so it should be no surprise that all forms of tobacco are also harmful to your oral health. For one, they can cause bad breath, but that’s only the beginning. Other possible oral health impacts include:
- stained teeth and tongue
- dulled sense of taste and smell
- slow healing after a tooth extraction or oral surgery
- difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems
- gum disease and tooth loss
- oral cancer
Quitting is the only way to decrease your risk of these and other tobacco-related health problems. The addictive quality of nicotine, which is found in cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, can make this especially difficult. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and a support network, people to help you stick to your plan. Write down your reasons for quitting.
Bottom-line: a smoke-free environment is healthier for you and for those around you. Make a plan to quit, stick to it and start living a healthier life. The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers nicotine to be the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S. For tips on quitting or how to help your child quit, visit Smokefree.gov.
Oral piercings or tongue splitting may look cool, but they can be dangerous to your health. That’s because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection and swelling often occur with mouth piercings. For instance, your mouth and tongue could swell so much that you close off your airway or you could possibly choke if part of the jewelry breaks off in your mouth. In some cases, you could crack a tooth if you bite down too hard on the piercing and repeated clicking of the jewelry against teeth can also cause damage. An infected oral piercing can also lead to more serious systemic infections, including hepatitis or endocarditis.
Eating disorders arise from a variety of complex physical, emotional and social issues. They can also be devastating to your oral health. More than 10 million Americans are affected by serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. These eating disorders can also affect a person’s oral health. Without the proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily. The glands that produce saliva may swell and individuals may experience chronic dry mouth. Throwing up frequently can affect teeth too. That’s because when strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth, the tooth’s enamel can be lost to the point that the teeth change in color, shape and length. The edges of teeth become thin and break off easily. If you suffer from an eating disorder, it’s important to seek counseling and talk to your health care provider.
The bottom line for smiles that are healthy on the inside and out:
- Always brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes
- Floss between your teeth daily
- Avoid sugary and starchy snacks
- Wear a mouthguard when you’re active
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t pierce your lips or any part of your mouth
See your dentist. Regular dental visits will help set you up to be Mouth Healthy for Life.