October is National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM). To celebrate, buy yourself a new toothbrush, a pack of floss, some oral rinse and a wad of gum. After all, the cornerstones of a healthy mouth are “brushing, flossing, rinsing and chewing,” which is the motto of the program.
For NDHM this year, the American Dental Association (ADA) is focusing on prevention. They emphasize the value of increasing public awareness of preventative services that help maintain good oral health.
It is estimated that 75 percent of adults have periodontal problems in some form. Each year, active, employed adults lose more than 164 million hours of work due to oral health issues. It may have been invigorating to skip school as a kid, but missing work as a grown-up can force you to fall behind with clients, colleagues and important projects. Therefore, the more you stay on top of your dental game, the longer you’ll be able to stay off the bench.
“A clean mouth is the first line of defense for a healthy body,” announced ADHA President Denise Bowers, RDH, PhD. “Oral diseases are prevalent but extremely preventable. Wrigley shares this philosophy with us. As we celebrate our partnership, Wrigley and ADHA would like to remind hygienists and patients that chewing sugar-free gum is good you and should be part of your daily oral health regimen.”
The theme for this month, “Healthy Habits are Easier than you Think,” highlights the idea that good oral health habits are simple to establish and maintain, even for those living active lifestyles. Habits are everything. Once you get in a routine with something, you’ll be able to do it without thinking. It’s like going on a run. You want to stay in good shape, right? That first day getting yourself off of the couch may be tough, but a week in, you’ll feel better than ever.
What are the pillars? “Brush, Floss, Rinse, Chew”
Brush twice a day for two minutes each time. Studies show that brushing is the single best method of avoiding cavities, as well as early and advanced stages of gum disease and other dental plaque-induced problems.
Angle the bristles at 45 degrees along the gumline. The toothbrush should touch both the tooth surface and the gumline. One of the biggest mistakes people make is brushing too hard. You may think the tougher you brush, the more clean and shiny your teeth will look. Unfortunately, this is not true. Your teeth and gums require gentle brushing, and however counterintuitive, this is the more effective practice.
In addition, be sure to change out your toothbrush every three months. Tiny microbes grow on the bristles and handles. Although most are innocuous, others can trigger flu and colds. Skip the hassle, and grab a fresh brush. Your mouth will thank you.
Flossing once per day will pluck out food particles and bacteria that your toothbrush can’t reach. Guide the floss in a zig-zag motion between the teeth to shave off inter-dental plaque. A telltale sign that you aren’t flossing enough is when your gums bleed each time you do it. Dentists will also notice this right away.
Rinse with non-alcoholic, anti-microbial mouth rinse. This will wash away germs located deep in the mouth and in grooves on the tongue and teeth you may have missed. It can also help prevent gingivitis. Make this part of your daily routine.
Chewing gum with xylitol after eating has been proven as an effective part of maintaining good oral health. It stimulates saliva, which flushes out food bits and neutralizes plaque acids.
Remember, a healthy mouth is the gateway to a healthy body.