Did you know that your mouth, teeth, and gums are related to your overall health?
Fortunately, the right lifestyle choices can help support good oral health and help you enjoy a healthy, white smile.
Read on to learn the lifestyle choices that have the biggest impact on your oral health and how to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy.
1. The Role of Diet in Oral Health
Certain foods contain important vitamins and minerals that promote dental health. Alternatively, sugary and acidic foods have a significant effect on tooth decay and enamel erosion.
Sugar is one of the leading causes of dental caries. When you consume sugary foods or drinks, bacteria in the mouth interact with glucose. This interaction creates acids that wear away tooth enamel and lead to erosion. This weakened tooth enamel is more susceptible to decay, sensitivity, dental caries, and other oral health issues.
Try to limit your sugar intake by filling your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods. When grocery shopping, pay close attention to ingredient labels.
You would be surprised by how many foods contain high amounts of added sugars. Even healthy-sounding foods like pasta sauce, yoghurt, and wheat bread can be packed with added sugars.
When shopping, read ingredient labels and opt for products that do not contain added sugar. For instance, when buying yoghurt, look for brands that are unsweetened and plain. You can add your own sweet yet healthy additions to your yoghurt like fresh berries or sliced bananas.
To limit reduce your sugar intake, watch out for these beverages and foods that are high in sugar:
- Energy drinks
- Taffy and lollies
Also, pay attention to how much natural sugar you consume. Although natural, molasses, maple syrup, and honey are still high in sugar.
If you do eat sugary food or have a sugary or acidic beverage, drinking water after can help rinse away acid and remove food particles.
Along with paying attention to how much sugar you consume, it is important to fill your diet with nutrient-rich, whole foods. Certain vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, are crucial for supporting strong bones, promoting healthy teeth, and lowering your chance of gum disease.
Some of the best foods for healthy teeth include:
- Lean meat such as poultry
- Fatty fish such as sardines, wild-caught salmon, anchovies, and mackerel
- Leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and kale
- Foods high in vitamin D and calcium, such as full-fat dairy, cheese, and plain yoghurt
- Crunchy fruits and vegetables such as celery, carrots, and apples, carrots (Along with their high nutrient content, these foods naturally help clear food particles and debris from teeth when you chew them.)
- Root vegetables
Along with consuming a healthy, balanced diet filled with whole foods, lean protein, calcium and vitamin D-rich foods, healthy fats, and fruits and veggies, be sure to drink enough water. Regular hydration helps wash away food debris, support saliva production, and reduce your risk of dry mouth.
It is also recommended to limit how often you snack throughout the day. This reduces the amount of exposure your teeth receive to sugar and acid.
It is also important to limit your intake of chewy or sticky foods. Foods such as taffy, hard candy, and lollies tend to adhere to teeth and allow plaque to form.
2. Smoking and Its Detrimental Effect on Oral Health
Smoking and tobacco use are some of the worst habits in terms of oral health.
In just one cigarette, you’ll find thousands of harmful chemicals and toxins that decrease blood flow, harm the teeth and gums, contribute to dry mouth, and create a variety of negative side effects.
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Missing teeth
- Bad breath
- Complications after tooth removal, such as infection
- Mouth cancer
- Stained, yellowed teeth (stains from smoking can be especially stubborn and hard to get rid of)
If you smoke, talk with your dentist or healthcare provider for tips on how to quit.
3. Impact of Alcohol and Oral Health
As with tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption can hurt oral health. While occasional alcohol consumption may not negatively affect oral health, excessive alcohol consumption can increase an individual’s risk of tooth decay, oral cancer, and gum disease.
Because of its acidic nature, alcohol can weaken tooth enamel and cause it to be at a higher risk of decay. The high sugar content, artificial flavours, and artificial colours in many alcoholic drinks can cause further damage to gums and teeth.
Alcohol is also dehydrating in nature and can contribute to dry mouth. This can lead to decreased saliva production and an increased risk of plaque and decay.
4. Caffeine and Dental Health
Coffee and tea are well known for their ability to stain teeth.
But did you know coffee and tea can impact your oral health in other ways?
The caffeine in coffee, soda, and some teas can decrease saliva production. This can contribute to dry mouth and negatively affect your oral health.
Soda and energy drinks are especially problematic as they are acidic, often high in caffeine, and full of added sugar. This mix of ingredients can damage tooth enamel, contribute to plaque buildup, and cause a host of oral health issues.
Try to limit how many acidic or sugary beverages you consume. When drinking coffee or tea, be sure to stay adequately hydrated to help reduce your risk of dry mouth and help rinse away stains from your teeth.
5. Oral Hygiene Habits and Daily Practices
A good oral hygiene routine is one of the most important ways to promote healthy teeth and gums. Further, good oral health can contribute to good overall health.
Regular brushing and flossing using proper technique significantly reduces the risk of plaque buildup, gum disease, decay, and other oral health issues.
A good oral hygiene routine should include:
- Brushing twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and proper technique (gentle, circular motions over all surfaces of the teeth for two minutes)
- Daily flossing
- Gently brushing your tongue once a day
- Regular visits to your dentist for general checkups
- Limit the amount of sugar you consume
- Make sure you are drinking an adequate amount of water every day
- Limit your intake of acidic foods or beverages
- Avoid tobacco use
- Ask your dentist for mouthwash recommendations
- Use toothpaste containing fluoride
Read More: What To Consider When Buying a Toothbrush
6. Stress and Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Stress is inevitable, but chronic stress can hurt your overall health and your oral health.
Stress releases hormones in the body (adrenaline and cortisol) that can be helpful in the short term. However, long-term exposure to these hormones can negatively affect your oral health.
For instance, there is a possible link between high-stress levels and teeth grinding (Bruxism), a condition that can lead to a variety of side effects.
Signs of bruxism include:
- Sore or tired jaw muscles
- Discoloured or yellowed
- Worn tooth enamel
- Trouble opening or closing your jaw
- Loosened teeth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
If you are experiencing signs of bruxism, notify your dentist right away. Bruxism can be treated with specific jaw exercises or a custom-made dental appliance known as a bite splint.
Along with discussing teeth grinding with your dentist, work on managing your stress levels and supporting your oral health with these tips:
- Attend regular dental checkups
- Talk with your doctor about your stress levels and ask for help in managing or reducing your stress
- Get enough sleep every night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Get treated if you have a dental phobia that is preventing you from getting the dental care you need (ask us about our dental sedation options)
- Eat a nutritious diet full of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables
- Get enough exercise
- Spend time laughing and socialising with friends and family
- Take part in your favourite hobbies
- Find and practice stress management techniques you enjoy such as journalling or meditating
7. Impact of Chewing Habits on Teeth
Chewing habits are often overlooked when it comes to oral health. Excessive force from poor chewing habits can lead to damaged enamel, trauma to teeth, and even lost teeth.
Examples of poor chewing habits include:
- Nail biting
- Chewing ice cubes
- Using teeth as a tool to open packages or containers
- Chewing on non-food objects such as pens or toothpicks
- Chewing extremely hard foods such as lollipops, hard candy, or jawbreakers
If you struggle with poor chewing habits, ask your dentist for tips on how to break these bad habits.
8. Mouthguards and Oral Health in Sports
You wear a seatbelt when driving. And wear a helmet for dangerous activities.
But many of us forget about protecting our teeth.
If you participate in any contact sports, it is strongly suggested to wear a custom-fitted mouthguard to protect your gums, teeth, jaw, and soft tissues.
Missing teeth or chipped or cracked teeth can be uncomfortable and painful to treat. Left untreated, missing teeth can lead to a host of oral health issues.
Preventative treatment is the best option. That’s where a custom-fitted mouthguard comes in.
A well-fitted mouthguard helps reduce impact during collisions with other players, accidents, or impact from a ball. It also helps protect the soft tissues of the mouth from damage.
Wearing a custom-made mouthguard can help protect your mouth during contact sports and prevent:
- Knocked out teeth
- Nerve damage to teeth
- Chipped, cracked, or damaged teeth
- Soft-tissue damage to the tongue, lips, gums, and cheeks
- Jaw bone fractures
While you can purchase a store-bought mouthguard, these stock mouthguards have limitations. Along with being bulky, the one-size-fits-all approach makes it difficult to find a stock mouthguard that is comfortable and suitable for your mouth and teeth shape.
A properly fitted mouthguard is recommended to experience the best protection. Custom-fitted mouthguards are created in a lab using an impression of the exact contours of your mouth. This personalised process leads to a more comfortable fit that offers improved protection in the event of a sports accident.
Advantages of a custom-made mouthguard versus a store-bought mouthguard include:
- Provides superior protection
- Offers a better fit and increased comfort
- Improves willingness to wear it due to enhanced comfort
- Made specifically to match the contours of your mouth
- Custom-made for your needs
If you want to learn more about how a custom-made mouthguard can help protect your smile during contact sports, please contact us with any questions or to set up a consultation.
Enjoy Your Best Smile With Chelmsford Dental
By making lifestyle choices that promote good oral health, you can help preserve a bright, healthy smile for a lifetime.
Along with consuming a healthy diet, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco use, and practising a good oral hygiene routine, it is also important to see your dentist regularly for checkups.
At Chelmsford Dental, we’re here to help you enjoy your best smile. We’re devoted to every one of our patients and use only the most advanced equipment and up-to-date dentistry practices. We’re proud of our reputation as one of Perth’s best family dentists.
If you have questions about how your lifestyle choices may be impacting your oral health, please feel free to contact us. We are always here to answer your questions or to help you book an appointment.