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Mouth Matters

Shape Up Your Oral Health

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By Annette Brooks

New Year’s resolutions usually include eating healthier, getting more exercise, and losing a few pounds.  Well, here’s something different to think about — start the year off right with a visit to your dentist. It’s one of the easiest resolutions you can keep. 

Modern dentistry isn’t just about “drilling and filling.” Your oral health is connected to your overall health. Below are a few components of healthy teeth and gums you should discuss with your dentist. 

Escape the Grind

Tell your dentist if you believe you grind your teeth in your sleep (bruxism) and get treated (which usually involves wearing a custom mouth guard) before damage is done. In addition to causing headaches, teeth grinding can crack and break your teeth and wear them down so severely your bite becomes misaligned. Grinding can also lead to chronic TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) and the painful side effects that accompany it. 

Discuss Dry Mouth

Let your dentist know if you have persistent dry mouth, even if you know the cause (e.g., medications and/or a health condition). Dental health implications include an increased risk of tooth decay, enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity, and oral infections. Your dentist will provide guidance on how you can help avoid dental damage.

Get Screened

Detecting oral cancer early on is linked to a substantially increased survival rate. Most dentists include oral cancer screening with routine exams. They look for red or white patches and mouth sores, feel the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities, and may also examine your throat and neck for lumps. Many dentists use innovative light technology to detect oral cancer in its earliest stages the naked eye might miss.

Tackle Inflammation and Infection

Partner with your dentist to battle gum disease. Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth or floss isn’t normal. Neither are sore, red, swollen, puffy, or receding gums. Other signs of gum disease include persistent bad breath, painful chewing, and loose teeth or tooth loss. Making matters worse, periodontitis is associated with infections that may spread to the jawbone and other tissues supporting the teeth that travel throughout your body, affecting your overall health.

Straightening Options

Crowded, crooked teeth detract from your appearance and are difficult to clean. With more spots for plaque and bacteria to hide, you may end up suffering from gum inflammation, tooth decay and loss, gum recession, jawbone loss, persistent bad breath, and an increased risk of broken teeth. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to explore orthodontics. New technologies and techniques move teeth faster, and removable clear aligners like Invisalign and lingual braces fixed to the back of the teeth make your orthodontic treatment virtually invisible to others. 

Resist the Urge to Skip

Take your dental health seriously. Make appointments for routine dental checkups and cleanings and then keep them. Check your dental insurance plan if you have one. Some plans have increased the coverage for cleanings from two to three times a year because they know the benefits outweigh the risk of increased costs down the line if problems aren’t caught and effectively addressed early on.

Please don’t be embarrassed to see a dentist if you haven’t been to one for a while. They will welcome you with open arms without judgment and help you get your teeth and oral health back on track.

If you avoid seeing the dentist due to fear and anxiety of being in the dental chair, rest assured that modern dentists go above and beyond to help ease your anxiety. They focus on providing comfortable, compassionate dental care, and many offer sedation dentistry as appropriate. 

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