Maintaining good oral health is about more than just keeping that smile looking bright and clean. Poor oral health is associated with a wide range of dental and medical problems, from cavities and gum disease to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Read on to find out how to maintain an optimal home oral healthcare routine to avoid expensive dental procedures and the potential for developing long-term health problems.

Avoiding Tooth Decay

People’s teeth are covered in enamel. That enamel provides a hard, protective outer coating. Over time, though, dental plaque builds up on the enamel, and the bacteria in that plaque produce acids that break the enamel down, causing cavities.

The best way to prevent cavities and other forms of tooth decay is to brush twice daily with fluoride-containing toothpaste and floss at least once a day. Patients also need to schedule regular cleanings with their dentists every. During these visits, a dental hygienist will remove tartar, or built-up plaque, and check for signs of enamel loss, making it easier to keep teeth clean and catch problems early.

Avoiding Gum Disease

Like tooth decay, gum disease occurs when people let plaque build-up in their mouths. In this case, the plaque is usually found beneath the gum line. The same bacteria responsible for tooth decay can also cause infections that damage both the gums and the hard tissues in the jaw, or even spread to other areas of the body if they are left unchecked.

The best ways to prevent gum disease at home are to brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and to floss regularly. Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding nicotine products can also help, though none of these factors replace the need for routine professional cleanings and exams.

Dealing With Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a condition that occurs when people don’t produce enough saliva to keep their mouths sufficiently wet. Having dry mouth can make it harder to eat and speak. It can also increase a person’s risk of developing tooth decay, cavities, and fungal infections.

People with dry mouth should avoid smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, caffeine, acidic fruit juices, or soft drinks. They may also want to avoid excessively salty or sugary foods, which can worsen oral health outcomes.

To reduce the effects of dry mouth, try sipping on water or chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. If those solutions don’t work, speak with a dentist. He or she can discuss other options, such as artificial saliva, that will help to keep the mouth sufficiently wet.

Minimizing the Risk of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer occurs most often in patients over the age of 40 and can start anywhere in the mouth, throat, or even the tongue. However, dentists perform cancer screenings at every visit, regardless of a patient’s age.

In addition to attending regular dental visits and oral cancer screenings, patients can also minimize their risk in a few other ways. They include:

  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation
  • Using lip balms that feature sunscreen

The Bottom Line

The most important aspects of maintaining optimal oral health are brushing, flossing, and attending regular dental cleanings and exams. It’s also wise to avoid excess sugar consumption, especially for patients with dry mouth or other disorders that make them prone to tooth decay or gum disease.