Are You at Risk for Tooth Loss?
How to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Brush and Floss
First, wash your hands. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss once a day.
"You wouldn't have to floss if you could reach all the parts of your mouth with a toothbrush, but you can't -- no more than you can vacuum a whole house without certain attachments for getting into corners," Price says. If you don't know how, ask your hygienist or dentist.
Other tips to prevent bacterial growth:
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Wash your toothbrush once in a while in the dishwasher or place it in a cup of mouthwash.
- Let your toothbrush dry completely after each brushing.
- Don't share your toothbrush with anyone.
Control Clenching and Grinding
Clenching and grinding can wear down your teeth. Stress control and relaxation techniques can greatly help. Also, if you clench and grind at night, your dentist can make a bite guard to even out the stresses on your teeth.
Whether it's stress management, a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, or nutritious food, many healthy lifestyle habits can cut your odds of periodontal disease or slow its progression.
"The better you take care of your body, the broader the health benefits," Clem says.
Feed Your Teeth the Right Stuff
You don't need a special diet. Sound nutritional habits will do the trick. However, meeting your daily requirements for calcium and vitamin C, plus plenty of water, may be especially helpful for your teeth and gums.
"We know that sugar is a super fuel for bacteria that produces acids and enzymes," Price says. "So either cut down on the sugar or get it out of your mouth before it produces harm."
If you do lose your teeth, it may limit your diet.
"People who don't have their teeth tend to eat soft, high-carbohydrate diets," Clem says. "They are not able to eat high-protein, high-fiber foods, which are even more important as they age." And that could contribute to a whole host of other problems, such as heart disease or diabetes.
Smoking affects the blood supply that feeds your gums, increasing the incidence and severity of periodontal disease.
"Smokeless tobacco has an even more deleterious [harmful] effect on gums," Price says.
Smokers are harder to treat, says Clem, and their response to treatment is less predictable. But if you quit smoking, you'll cut your odds of heart disease, as well as periodontal disease.
Manage Chronic Diseases
If you have a chronic disease, you may need to take extra care of your teeth.
People with poorly managed diabetes, for instance, may have difficulty with fighting infection and wound healing.
If you have diabetes, you need to pay special attention to blood glucose control, as well as dental care and regular checkups.
Contact your dentist if you see signs of periodontal disease: red, sore, or bleeding gums.