Keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy

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gums

MNA Life Style Desk: You have so many good reasons to keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy. New research suggests that gum disease can lead to other problems in the body, including increased risk of heart disease.

Start children early

Despite great strides in decay prevention, one in four young children develops signs of tooth decay before they start school. Half of all children between the ages of 12 and 15 have cavities. Dental care should begin as soon as a child’s first tooth appears, usually around six months.

Seal off trouble

Permanent molars come in around age 6. Thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth can prevent decay in the pits and fissures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sealants can significantly reduce caries. Yet only one in three U.S. kids receives dental sealants. Talk to your dental professional.

Don’t use too much fluoride

The single biggest advance in oral health has been fluoride, which strengthens enamel, making it less likely to decay. If your water isn’t fluoridated, talk to your dental professional, who may suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth. Many toothpastes and mouth rinses also contain fluoride. Fluoride should be used sparingly in young children — no more than a pea-sized dab on the toothbrush. Too much can cause white spots on teeth.

Brush twice a day and floss daily

Gum disease and tooth decay remain big problems — and not just for older people. Three-fourths of teenagers have gums that bleed. Toothbrushes should be changed 3 to 4 times a year. Teenagers with braces may need to use special toothbrushes and other oral hygiene tools to brush their teeth. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist. Older people with arthritis or other problems may have trouble holding a toothbrush or using floss. Some people find it easier to use an electric toothbrush.