Healthy Habits Make Healthy Teeth

At Dr. Carr Orthodontics, we understand that learning how to properly take care of your teeth and gums takes time, especially for younger patients. But just like learning how to multiply, tie their shoes or sing the A-B-Cs, kids can learn the best dental practices that will help ensure they enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums when properly taught.

It’s especially important that younger patients receiving early braces treatments pay close attention to the care of their teeth and gums. While braces can correct a variety of common oral health problems, they can also increase a child’s risk of tooth decay if not properly maintained through daily brushing and flossing and regular checkups with Roy orthodontist Dr. Carr.

However, when it comes to what really makes our teeth tick, even many parents have a few things to learn. With that in mind, here are a few facts about your teeth that parents and kids should know you might not even realize.

The Toothbrush Isn’t Necessarily Your Teeth’s Best Friend

While brushing and flossing rank as the best habits kids and adults can have when it comes to protecting long-term oral health, saliva actually ranks as your teeth’s first line of defense against tooth decay and gum disease.

Plaque, a sticky biofilm, clings to the surface of your teeth where it uses the foods we eat to produce an acid-like substance that slowly erodes away the hard outer layer of our teeth known as enamel. Brushing and flossing help to remove plaque from the surface of our teeth so they remain healthy and strong. However, plaque builds up on our teeth throughout the day, and since most people only brush in the morning and evening, this leaves many hours of the day where plaque and lingering food particles can hang out in the mouth.

Enter the role of saliva. Saliva naturally washes away plaque and food particles from your mouth. When combined, a healthy saliva flow and brushing can help protect your teeth from the harmful impact plaque can have on your long-term oral health. While kids rarely have problems with the amount of saliva their mouths produce, it’s still important they stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially after a meal. Dry mouth becomes more frequent the older we become, and adults, especially seniors taking prescription medications, can experience symptoms related to reduced saliva flow.

If you or your child suffers from low saliva production, make sure to talk with Dr. Carr during your next appointment.

Snacking Can Hurt Your Teeth

The effects snacking has on your teeth can come as a surprise to many adults, but the damage the habit can cause impacts both kids and parents alike.

By now you probably know that eating sugar increases an individual’s risk of tooth decay. That’s because plaque uses the sugars we consume as fuel to produce those harmful acids that destroy tooth enamel. What you might not realize is that not all sugar consumption has the same impact on your oral health, and that a candy bar eaten in the afternoon has significantly worse impact on your oral health than a piece of cake you eat for dessert.

Here’s why.

When you eat a larger meal like breakfast, lunch or dinner, your mouth produces more, that’s right, saliva! This excess saliva flow helps to wash away foods you have during the meal so your mouth remains relatively clean after.

However, when you snack throughout the day, taking small bites of food here and there, your mouth doesn’t produce any additional saliva. As a result, far more of that candy bar you enjoyed in the late afternoon remains stuck to the surface of your teeth than any foods that you eat as part of dinner, including dessert.

The more sugar that remains in your mouth from snacking, the more fuel you provide plaque to create acids that damage tooth enamel.

It’s not just sweets that damage your teeth. Goldfish crackers and P&J sandwiches with the crust cut off both contain carbohydrates, which are just a more complex form of sugar. So even if you have a no-sugar policy, feeding your kids an afternoon snack can still present oral health problems depending on what’s on the menu.

To avoid problematic snacking, try munching on fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only do these types of food contain very little sugar, but their high water content also helps to wash away food particles from the surface of your teeth. It’s little wonder than apples, celery and other crunchy fruits and vegetables have the nickname “Mother Nature’s toothbrush.”

Avoid Soda and Juice

Most kids love fresh juice and many adults crave soda, but both offer problems when it comes to protecting long-term oral health. Regular soda and fruit juice both contain high levels of sugar, which we just covered why you and your kids should avoid. But even diet sodas and freshly squeezed juices present a bigger risk to your oral health than you might think.

All forms of soda and fruit juice have one thing in common - they all high levels of acidity. The pH level of your mouth – which needs to stay fairly low – spikes after drinking soda or juice. When the pH level in the mouth becomes more acidic rather than neutral, the increased acid levels begin to wear down tooth enamel in the same way as the acid produced from plaque. When you combine the sugars in regular soda and many store-bought brands of juice with natural acidity found in these types of beverages, every sip coats your teeth in a liquid that can cause serious damage over the long-term. It’s no wonder than many in the oral health community compare drinking soda and juice with added sugar with bathing your teeth in battery acid.

Avoiding sugary and highly acidic beverages is the best technique for avoiding an increased risk of tooth decay. But if you just can’t resist, make sure you and your kids wash your soda or juice down with some water.

If you have any questions about other potentially harmful habits for you or your child’s teeth, make sure to ask Roy orthodontist Dr. Carr during your next appointment.