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Helpful Hints for Healthy Teeth

Don't believe everything you hear about what is good or bad for your pearly whites.

Don't Overbrush Your Teeth continued...

Price recommends them only for a gentle lavage before or after brushing. "Do not turn it on like a fire hose," he instructs.

Similarly, prebrush rinses, Price says, are no substitute for brushing. These methods should be used together.

Toothpaste is an abrasive, with some therapeutic additions, namely fluoride, which strengthens enamel and can shore up little breaches in it before cavities develop.

Brushing itself should be gentle, with the bristles at a 45-degree angle to the teeth, Paskerian says. Swish gently with an oval motion rather than raking the brush side to side across the teeth.

What about the ever-popular floss? Paskerian recommends the easy-glide type -- daily, of course. Since the dentin between teeth is not fully mineralized with hard enamel, don't saw away like mad. Paskerian is also skeptical of the new "paste" floss -- that means an abrasive is being pulled over the dentin, he says.

Dental Destroyers

Homemade drugs full of industrial chemicals, such as methamphetamine (meth), can ruin teeth in short order. There is even a term for the rottenness and missing teeth -- meth mouth. Muriatic acid, used to strip cement floors, is one ingredient. "These drugs also cause dry mouth, leaving the teeth open to plaque, Price says. "And the users tend to be tense and grind their teeth." (Not to mention not being too picky about brushing, flossing, and taking care of their teeth.)

But even some more respectable drugs, such as tetracycline and other full-spectrum antibotics, can cause discoloration in permanent teeth if kids take them before age 10 -- and now they are finding that adults can get color changes from some adult acne antibiotics, too, Price says.

"Discuss antibiotics with your dentist and doctor," he advises. "Sometimes, the dentist can prescribe a high-content fluoride rinse, which helps some."

Other drugs may cause dry mouth or bleeding gums.

Nicotine, of course, stains teeth, but there are also some chemicals in the burning paper that can cause discoloration, and the heat in a smoker's mouth can impede circulation and encourage gum disease.

Although it is not usually the first problem with bulimia that comes to mind, people who binge and vomit also eat away their teeth with acid.

Also -- lemon chewing is out! Both dentists mentioned this -- is there a lot of that going around?

Drinking bottled water exclusively can also be a problem. Check to see if it's fluoridated. If it doesn't say, call the company, Price advises.

And researchers have now found that obesity and insulin resistance may be linked to periodontal disease. So stick with your healthy eating to stay out of the dental chair.

What About Sugar?

What was Mom's biggest refrain about teeth? Sugar! "You will ruin those beautiful teeth!"

Sugar, both dentists say, is not the problem. How long the sugar stays on teeth is the problem. Given enough time, the bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar and excrete damaging acid that can eat through enamel forming cavities.

So if you eat candy, brush afterward if you can.

Or chew some gum! Amazingly, even sugar gum is not a big no-no for teeth, the dentists say. It churns up lots of saliva, which carries off the sugar in short order.

Some sugarless gum, containing xylitol, is even a good decay-preventer. In fact, in California, researchers are trying to make Gummi Bears into a dental aid by making them with xylitol.

Soda, too, is not too much of a tooth problem, if you brush or drink water afterward. In fact, the diet kind contains more phosphates than can be acidic to enamel and may be a bigger threat to your choppers than regular.

Dark chocolate is not too bad for your teeth, either, Price notes.

Well, that makes it all worthwhile!

That -- and not having to crush all that ice anymore.

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Reviewed on June 17, 2008

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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