Most of us realize that diet and exercise play an important part in keeping us healthy. But did you know that a healthy mouth is also an important part of a healthy body?
Poor oral health can affect a person’s quality of life. Oral pain, missing teeth or oral infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats and socializes. These oral health problems can reduce a person’s quality of life by affecting their physical, mental and social well-being.
Oral disease, like any other disease, needs to be treated. A chronic infection, including one in the mouth, is a serious problem that should not be ignored. Yet bleeding or tender gums are often overlooked.
Research has shown there is an association between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, respiratory illness in older adults, as well as pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Although researchers are just beginning to understand this relationship, evidence shows that oral disease can aggravate other health problems and that keeping a healthy mouth is an important part of leading a healthy life.
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth
1. Keep your mouth clean
Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
Wait at least 20–30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth.
Floss every day.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
Limit foods and beverages containing sugar or carbohydrates.
Ideal snack foods: cheese, nuts, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits.
Look for oral care products with the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal.
2. Check your mouth regularly
Look for signs of gum disease:
Red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums
Bleeding when you brush or floss
Bad breath that won’t go away
Look for signs of oral cancer:
Bleeding or open sores that don’t heal
White or red patches
Numbness or tingling
Small lumps and thickening on the sides or bottom of your tongue, the floor or roof of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks, or on your gums
3. Eat well
Good nutrition helps build strong teeth and gums.
Munch on mouthhealthy snacks like cheeses, nuts, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits.
4. See your dentist regularly
48% of Canadians who haven’t seen a dentist in the past year have gum disease. Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent and detect problems before they get worse.
5. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause oral cancer, heart disease, gum disease, and a variety of other cancers.
If you ever get nervous just thinking about going to the dentist, you’re not alone. Perhaps you’re scared the visit might hurt or you haven’t been in a while and not sure what the dentist will find.
Whatever your reason, the right dental team will make sure your dental and your emotional health are taken care of. The more you delay – or just don’t go – to the dentist, the higher your risk of developing dental problems that will make gearing up for future dental visits more difficult. In fact, seeing your dentist regularly can actually make the entire process – from making an appointment to sailing through it – much easier on many levels.
Use these strategies at your next appointment to help ease your anxiety and strengthen your smile.
1. Speak up
Anyone with anxiety knows sharing your feelings makes a world of difference. If you’re tense or anxious, do yourself a favor and get your concerns off your chest. Your dentist and dental team are better able to treat you if they know your needs.
Tell your dentist about your anxiety. When you book your appointment, tell the receptionist you’re nervous about dental visits. Remind the dentist and dental staff about your anxiety when you arrive. Share any bad experiences you may have had in the past, and ask for suggestions on coping strategies.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes knowing what is going to happen alleviates any fears of the unknown.
Agree on a signal. Let your dentist know by raising your hand if you need to take a break during an exam.
If you experience pain even with a local anesthetic, tell your dentist. Some patients get embarrassed about their pain tolerance or don’t want to interrupt a dentist during a procedure. Talk with your dentist about pain before it starts so your dentist knows how to communicate with you and make it more comfortable.
2. Distract yourself
Taking your mind off the exam may seem impossible when you’re nervous, but there are some things that that can help distract your thoughts.
Wear headphones. If the sound of the drill bothers you, bring headphones so you can listen to your favorite music or audiobook. Some dental offices even have televisions or show DVDs.
Occupy your hands by squeezing a stress ball or playing with a small handheld object, like a fidget spinner.
Imagine your happy place and visualize yourself at a relaxing beach or garden.
3. Use mindfulness techniques
Relaxation starts in the mind. Try deep breathing exercises to help relax tension in your muscles.
Count your breaths. Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. Do this five times while you’re waiting for your appointment, or during breaks while you’re sitting in the dental chair.
Do a body scan. Concentrate on relaxing your muscles, one body part at a time. Start with your head and work your way down to your toes. For example, you can focus on releasing tension starting in your forehead, then your cheeks, your neck and down the rest of your body.