8 dental tips for older Americans
SUMMARY: Between Mother Nature's toothbrush and your body's use of vitamin D, here are a number of things you may not realize about everyday dental upkeep.
Posted: February 23, 2014
A recent WellPoint survey revealed that Americans older than age 45 understand that good oral care can positively affect their overall heath. For baby boomers and beyond, strong, functional teeth should not be taken for granted. Issues like dry mouth brought on by medication, painful gums and chronic bad breath, are common dental complaints that should be met with proper dental care.
The bottom line: Proper dental care starts at home. No matter what stage of life you're at, here are eight tips that will help keep a smile on your face:
1. Like your bones, your teeth are made up of calcium. That's why mothers tell their kids to drink milk, which helps to refortify dental enamel. But it not only works wonder on teeth - it also plays a role in healthy gums. Research has shown that those who consume lower amounts of calcium in their diets have a much greater risk of developing gum disease than those who maintain a calcium-rich diet. To combat this, eat foods packed with the nutrient, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and soybeans.
2. Your body cannot use calcium without vitamin D. Humans absorb vitamin D through exposure to the sun. Vitamin D allows cells to absorb calcium. The best foods with vitamin D include wild salmon, mackerel, low fat milk and egg yolks. Despite the ability to get this vitamin from the food and the sun, an estimated 40 to 75 percent of people are deficient. Make simple fixes: If you're a cereal fan, purchase milk fortified with vitamin D, or make a point to cook salmon regularly for dinner.
3. Avoid snacking. Grazing on sugary foods between mealtimes is a well-known culprit of poor oral health. The longer your teeth are drenched in sugars, the longer sugars have to form acids in the mouth to erode tooth enamel. The teeth you have today must last a lifetime, so take care of them!
4. Coffee drinker? Your morning brew could spell trouble for pearly whites. With the same principle of sugary food that soaks teeth, coffee's dark color not only stains enamel, but soaks teeth in acids that wear down their protective coating.
5. Saliva is one of the strongest soldiers that fight harmful bacteria. Foods that stimulate saliva production, such as cherries, cranberries and gum, can help your body ward off harmful bacteria. Sugarless gum that contains xylitol is a great tool to spur salivary glands. Keep dry mouth at bay by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. When your mouth dries up, your teeth and gums become a breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria, which causes bad breath and leaves you more susceptible to tooth decay.
6. Take advantage of Mother Nature's toothbrush: Hard, crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots can dislodge food bits from your teeth, cleaning them naturally.
7. Brush your teeth twice a day, for two minutes each session. Did you know that the average American spends less than 50 seconds brushing their teeth? If you fall on the wrong side of this statistic, it's not too late to change your habits.
8. See the dentist once every six months. A big misconception is that you have to have a problem such as a toothache or dry mouth to visit the dental office. However, your oral professional will be more than pleased to see you when you're worry-free. Besides, even though teeth may not look dirty, plaque lingers in places you cannot see.