Our neighbors across the pond are celebrating National Smile Month from May 19 to June 19. As the largest and longest-running oral health campaign in the U.K., National Smile Month seeks to heighten awareness about vital oral health issues such as cavities and gum disease, and while they might be some 3,000 miles away, the power of a smile can go a long way.
For the majority of Americans and Brits, one’s teeth is the first thing they notice when meeting someone. According to a British study, white teeth can make you look 20 percent more attractive and up to 16 percent employable. They can also chip five years off of how old you look. First impressions are everything, and your smile has an instant impact on those around you.
The mouth-body connection
Beyond the sheer appearance of your pearly whites, the mouth is considered the gateway to the body. What foods you eat, beverages you drink and chemicals you smoke enter the mouth to affect the system as a whole. Research has shown that rotten oral health is connected to an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, Type 2 diabetes and complications during pregnancy. In one study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with serious gum disease were 40 percent more likely to have a chronic condition.
So, what comes to mind when you think of poor oral health? Yellow teeth, gap smile and rancid bad breath. While that’s certainly the epitome of things, there are many more common problems that we tend to overlook – and many more people suffer from them than you may think.
You wouldn’t ignore a bleeding foot, so why ignore bleeding gums? Puffy, red and bleeding gums can be a sign of gum disease. On a basic level, the condition is attributed to plaque building up along the gum line, which irritates the tissues and erodes dental enamel. As it progresses, the gums become inflamed, a condition known as gingivitis.
If plaque is not removed with regular brushing and dental appointments, it will harden into what is called tartar – and only a dentist can get rid of it. In the most severe cases, tartar buildup may lead to gum recession, or periodontitis, that wears away at the jawbone and usually results in tooth loss.
Tips to maintain proper oral health
To avoid these concerns, here are the three key ingredients for a clean smile and healthy gums:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Cut back on sugary foods and drinks, and if you do consume them, do so around mealtimes. As the saying goes, “sip all day, get decay.” Sugar-rich beverages are a main culprit for tooth decay.
- Visit your dentist regularly, at least once every six months.
Bad habits that are harmful to teeth
Conversely, there are a slew of things that worsen one’s oral health. Here are some bad habits to kick to the curb:
- Smoking, and use of tobacco – including chew, cigars and e-cigarettes – which leaves destructive chemicals in the mouth, aggravates bleeding gums and causes smoker’s breath.
- Drinking coffee and soda. The longer the liquids coat your teeth, the longer they have to corrode dental enamel. If you drink coffee religiously, a simple solution is to rinse the beverage down with water.
- Waiting until you have a toothache to visit the dentist. Remember, sometimes the best cure is prevention.
Look out for more pearly white dedication during August, which is National Smile Week in the U.S.!