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April is Oral Health Month

April is oral health month. What better time then to think about how you take care of your mouth? Not only is good dental health important to having healthy teeth and gums, but it may also lower your risk of chronic disease. Read on for how your health and happy smile go hand in hand.

Taking care of your smile

Here are some reasons why good dental hygiene is important:

  • Oral pain (such as tender, bleeding gums), infections and missing teeth can affect your ability to eat, talk and socialize. Being unable to eat can affect your nutrition, not to mention your enjoyment of food.
  • Research now shows that there is a connection between poor dental health and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Healthy mouth checklist: Are you doing these four things to keep your mouth healthy?

1. Make healthy food choices, while limiting foods that are high in sugar or acid

Foods high in sugar can cause cavities.  Foods high in acid, such as pop, orange juice and lemonade can cause acid erosion of your tooth enamel. This can damage your teeth and make them soft and sensitive.

2. Visit your dental professional regularly

Regular checkups mean your dental professional can clean your teeth and check for signs of oral disease. This can prevent problems or stop small problems before they get worse.

To find a dentist in your area: Ontario Dental Association. To find a Registered Dental Hygienist in your area: College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario

3. Keep your mouth clean by brushing and flossing everyday 

Use a soft-bristle toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth and tongue twice a day. Don’t forget to floss! When you don’t floss, you miss cleaning a third of your tooth surface.

Follow these instructions and diagrams on how to brush and floss properly.

Check your mouth on a regular basis. If you spot any of these warning signs, see your dental professional right away.

4. Avoid tobacco

Smoking or chewing tobacco can lead to mouth cancers, gum disease and tooth loss.

For more on tobacco and your health: Smoking and Nutrition. For help quitting: Ontario Smoker’s Helpline, 1-877-513-5333. 

My child wants to drink pop with her meals. Is this harmful?

Yes. Pop is high in sugar and acidic, both of which can cause cavities in children. The sugar in pop will sit on your child’s teeth and get broken down by bacteria that will produce acid. This acid may then begin to break down the tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities.  

Instead, offer your children water, low fat milk or soy beverage with their meals. Even 100% juice is high in sugar and should be offered only once in awhile.

In between meals, it’s best to drink water most often. 

Does sugar cause cavities?

Yes - if you don’t take care of your teeth. Bacteria live on our teeth and they feed on sugar (and other carbohydrates) that get stuck to the tooth surface. When you eat sticky, sweet foods like candy and toffee and don’t clean your teeth afterwards, the bacteria start to eat the sugar, which produces acid. This acid may then begin to break down the enamel on your teeth, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities.  

If you’re going to eat sugary, sticky foods, like caramels or jujubes, eat them with your meals and then brush your teeth. If you can’t brush your teeth, eat an apple or chew a piece of sugarless gum. The saliva you make when chewing gum helps to wash some of the sugar off your teeth.

Should I be concerned about fluoride in water?

No. Adding fluoride to our tap water has been shown to be the most effective and inexpensive way to offer fluoride protection to a large number of people. Fluoride is a mineral that has been added to our water supply to help prevent tooth decay. Fluoride can also be found in toothpaste, mouthwash and supplements. Research has shown that in places where fluoride is added to the water, there is a decrease in the rates of tooth decay.

The amount of fluoride in your water is closely monitored by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Drinking Water  and is safe for your health.

Bottom line

Good oral health starts with healthy habits like brusing and flossing, eating healthy foods and visiting your dental health professional regularly.

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.