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What I Wish My Dentist Told Me When I Was A Kid

There are some truths about my health that seem to have escaped me in my youth. Or perhaps my pediatric dentist took great care to explain them to me and I just happened to ignore them in the pursuit of candy, toys, and other adventures. In any event, I find myself wishing that I had been more educated on my dental well-being since I have had to learn the following bits of wisdom the hard way…

Bits of Dental Wisdom:

1. Flossing actually does something good.

For some reason, in my younger years I doubted the validity of floss as though it were merely another ploy to make my parents spend money. After several cavities and a bout of gum disease later, I have discovered there is a purpose behind that simple, waxy thread. Floss is vital to protecting gums and preventing tooth decay; one study shows that it’s so effective you can save up to 40% of dental costs just through flossing regularly.

2. Tooth enamel needs love.

As it turns out, tooth enamel is not as impenetrable as I thought it to be. Although it’s a pretty tough layer around your teeth, acidic or hard foods can crack through that baby and leave the inner part of your teeth exposed to infections, often leading to tooth decay and ultimately extractions. Once enamel is cracked, it doesn’t grow back so it’s critical to talk to your dentist about how to prevent further damage.

3. There are “do’s” and “don’ts” of brushing one’s teeth.

Do’s:
Brush your tongue. That thing is ripe for halitosis which is the fancy word for “nasty breath”.
Use the proper brushing technique. Don’t know what that means? Ask your dentist and they will help you out.
Brush for at least 2 minutes. Rubbing a brush over your teeth in a matter of seconds is unfortunately close to useless.
Don’ts:
Brush ferociously. While it’s a lovely thing to have a strong desire to eradicate plaque from your mouth, scrubbing your teeth in a rage results in gum recession instead of clean teeth.
Brush immediately after eating acidic foods. You will just be pushing harmful acids further into the enamel which creates more damage. Wait at least a half hour before brushing after a meal.
Use a hard-bristled toothbrush. These are incredibly damaging to the gums and will result in the previously mentioned recession.

4. Your gums and your teeth are equals.

Your gums are loose cannons. They require delicate attention if you want to keep them nice and healthy. While a lot of the focus is on preventing cavities (which is important), gums can get infected which will lead to periodontal disease and other complications such as diabetes or heart disease.

5. What you eat has an enormous effect on your teeth.

The junk food lover in me wants to cry about this fact, but the truth is sugar and acids are rotten for your teeth. They literally erode the enamel, exposing you to those diabolical infections. Our moms weren’t lying when they warned us about sweets and sodas. On a more positive note, eating calcium, leafy vegetables, and strawberries will all help the health of your teeth.

6. You’ll be a happier person if you have regular cleanings.

While you can floss and brush effectively to prevent serious damage, you should still visit the dentist twice a year because there are some things you just can’t do on your own. When plaque builds up it hardens into tartar and the only way to get rid of it is through that little pick the dentist uses. They can also check you for gum disease or any other problems that might be formulating in your mouth that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Even if you’re in the same boat as me and didn’t develop stellar oral hygiene habits as a young one, you can start now. You will be able to halt any further damage and get a hold of any problems that might currently exist. And from now on, we can start actually listening to our dentist!

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License: Creative Commons
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Mark Tyler is a freelance writer. He writes about family and health.

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