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Your smile has the power to brighten your day – and someone else’s. A healthy smile starts with proper dental hygiene. This National Dental Hygiene Month, we’re sharing five simple habits to help share more confident smiles, and celebrate the importance of proper dental hygiene for whole-person health.
Keeping your mouth, teeth, and gums clean and healthy is necessary to combat cavities and gum disease. Cavities and gum disease are caused by plaque, a thin, sticky film that constantly forms on your teeth every single day. A study from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research found that 92% of people ages 20-64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all adults have experienced gum disease – identified as inflammation, tenderness, or bleeding when brushing or flossing. When left untreated, cavities and gum disease can lead to severe infections, such as periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss or irreversible damage.
Researchers are also uncovering increasing evidence connecting our oral hygiene to our overall physical health. A number of studies from the American Academy of Periodontology show an association between gum disease and other diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Dental hygiene must be considered an essential part of your everyday life,” said Dr. Clay Hedlund, Dental Director at Cigna in a recent Cigna podcast. “A few simple actions, paired with routine preventive care cleanings, can help maintain confidence in your smile throughout your lifetime.”
This National Dental Hygiene Month, take the time to incorporate these five simple habits for a healthier smile:
- Brush and Floss Daily: Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for about two minutes. Don’t forget to gently brush or scrape your tongue! Floss at least once a day, preferably in the evening. Tip: look for products that have the American Dental Association’s seal of acceptance on the label.
- Maintain a Healthy, Low-Sugar Diet: Plaque contains bacteria that release destructive acids when we eat sugar. If plaque isn’t removed by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, also known as calculus, in as little as a couple of days.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Drinking water regularly throughout the day helps to wash away food particles that may begin to break down inside your mouth and contribute to halitosis, also known as bad breath. Water also helps alleviate Dry Mouth or Xerostomia.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking is not only incredibly harmful to your overall health, it also poses a number of risks specific to your oral hygiene. Smoking dramatically increases your risk for gum disease and contributes to bad breath.
- Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Schedule regular cleanings and exams. Start a conversation with your dentist to determine how often you should go – for some individuals it’s once or twice a year, for others it’s more frequent.