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How to Eat Sweets and Keep Your Teeth

With the Valentine season over the last two weeks, adults and children alike have been filling up on little candy hearts, as well as plenty of chocolate. Today all those sweets are deeply discounted, so more sweet treats will be eaten in mass the rest of this month. With all that sugary goodness, it is important to take care of our teeth, keeping them strong and healthy for the future.

Children should be taught how to brush their own teeth by about age 2. One in four young children develop tooth decay before starting school. Fluoride should be used sparingly in young children, about a pea-size of toothpaste, because too much can cause white spots on teeth. Sealant coatings can be applied to permanent molars to prevent decay, yet only one in three American children get dental sealants. Half of all children between age 12 and 15 have cavities.

Teeth should be brushed twice a day and flossed once a day. You should get a new toothbrush three or four times per year; these may be received at the dentist office during your regular check-up. Older people may have a hard time holding a toothbrush and may find an electric one easier to use. Other options include putting a bicycle grip or foam tube over the handle to make it easier to hold. In between meals when you cannot brush, simply rinsing the mouth with water or chewing sugarless gum can increase saliva flow, which naturally destroys bacteria.

A healthy diet leads to healthy teeth and gums. Grains, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and dairy products provide many of the nutrients you need. Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation, lowering the risk of gum disease. Sugary foods should normally be avoided, but on the holiday occasion, a sweet treat will definitely be on the menu. When bacteria in the mouth breaks down simple sugars, they produce acids that can erode tooth enamel. It is not the sugar per se that “rots your teeth out”, but the digestion process. Carbonation in drinks also increases this acidity.

A dental check-up is recommended every 6 months. During the exam, your hygienist will remove plaque build-up that you can’t brush or floss away and check for decay. Gum disease, teeth grinding, and oral cancer can also be detected. Older patients may be on one of the 800 medications that cause dry mouth, which also increases the risk of decay and gum problems. A change in medications may help the problem. Nearly all tooth decay and gum disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene.
Jaret, Peter. “Healthy Teeth for Life: 10 Tips for Families.” Oral Care. WebMD, 29 Oct 2010. Web. 15 Feb 2017.

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