Valentine’s Day is a major reason why February is the month of love. It’s a time to show both others and yourself some love. One of the best ways to do that is through taking care of yourself inside and out. Part of taking care of your overall health is taking care of your oral health, as both are connected. If you want better oral health, start with these tips!
February is one of the biggest holidays for gifting chocolate to a loved one. Although chocolate isn’t bad, the sugars in it can hurt your teeth if you’re not practicing good oral hygiene. Growing up, many people hear that sugar will rot your teeth, and that’s actually true…to a degree. When you eat, sugars in your foods and drinks mix with your mouth bacteria to form a sticky, clear film. That film is what is known as “plaque”, and instead of getting swallowed, it’s stickiness allows it to stick to your teeth along your gum line. When those sugar particles combined with bacteria, it made the mixture acidic and it’s that acidity that hurts your teeth.
Plaque will sit along your gums and the acids in it will work to break up the minerals of your teeth. This can weaken your teeth over time, and it’s actually what causes tooth decay, which you know by the name of “cavities”. That decay often goes undetected because the teeth don’t always change color until very severe decay has happened. However, decay may still be present, but you’d have to visit the dentist to know for sure.
That acidic plaque will also irritate the gums because they are a more delicate, soft tissue than the hard tooth enamel you have. If you’re not brushing and flossing, your gums will start to become more red, inflamed, swollen, and they may even bleed. Extended periods of time with plaque on the teeth will lead to gum recession. When that is severe, the teeth fall out due to gum disease.
Does that mean you have to skip the sugar? Not at all! You just have to up your game with oral hygiene care and watch the sweets you eat. Statistics show that candy (especially chocolate), flowers and jewelry are the most common gifts for Valentine’s. Only the candy and chocolate can give you cavities and gum issues, but as we mentioned, it won’t happen if you’re doing great on your oral hygiene.
Part of that care is watching your sweet treats and helping your family members to do the same. A good tip is to always check food and drink labels to see what they contain. Sodas and sports drinks are notorious for crazy amounts of sugar in them. That sugar not only leads to weight gain, low-grade symptoms like headaches and digestive upsets, but also oral health problems. Switch to water as much as possible to protect your smile. When drinking sodas, sparkling water (which has acids in it), and any drink with sugar, try using a straw to limit liquid contact with the teeth.
Cutting back on your sugar intake is a great way to love your smile a bit more this season. The American Heart Association recommends specific sugar limits to keep both your body and your teeth healthy. Their recommendation is that men get no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is about 36 grams or 150 calories of sugar. Women should get no more than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams of sugar, which is about 100 calories. Children and especially infants should have none. Sadly, studies show that on average, children and even infants are getting at least 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. 4-8-year-olds are getting around 21 or more, and the average 14-18-year-old gets around 34 teaspoons. It’s no wonder that oral health diseases (tooth decay and gum disease) are the most common diseases Americans face!
So what can you do to love your smile more? The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day, for 2 minutes at a time. Brush after every meal to reduce plaque even more. Limit your sugar as much as possible, and take extra oral health measures with higher sugar days (like Valentine’s). Floss 1-2 times a day, making sure to floss up into your gum line, and to gently scrape your teeth as you go. Use mouthwash to kill decay-causing bacteria and ask your dentist about fluoride treatments, which can strengthen your teeth against acids and plaque. Your dentist will also have more tips for taking care of your smile when you come in for your dental visit.
Whether it’s cutting back on the sugar or upping your game with oral hygiene care and dental visits, there are so many ways to love your smile more every day. You can know how your smile is doing by scheduling a comprehensive exam by calling Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425!