World Oral Health Day is celebrated on March 20th. More than 3.5 billion people worldwide suffer from oral diseases. These diseases are caused by a range of modifiable risk factors, including high sugar consumption, tobacco use, alcohol, poor hygiene, insufficient hydration, and stress.
Here are 12 things to consider that you can do to achieve optimal oral health:
- Diet. Most people know by now that avoiding sugar is key to preventing cavities. However, it’s just as important to make sure your diet includes critical vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are needed to keep oral structures healthy and performing at their peak. Check your daily intake of vitamin D and E, vitamin K2, magnesium, zinc, antioxidants; these all play key roles in keeping the mouth healthy.
- The oral microbiome. Your mouth contains large populations of microorganisms. When this “microbiome" is out of balance, your mouth is at a higher risk for disease. Consider adding oral probiotics to your daily routine. Eat fermented foods to support the oral microbiome.
- Proper hygiene. Develop an effective oral health routine. Brush at least 2 times a day and floss or use a water pik at least once a day. Do not allow rotting food to stay between your gums.
- Exercise. Simple exercises help with blood circulation, which improves the delivery of nutrients to your mouth and helps protect your teeth and gums.
- Sleep. Lack of sleep weakens your immune system, which makes you more prone to oral infections.
- Dental visits. Regular dental visits are essential for a number of reasons, but especially if you have a cavity or an infection and you may not be aware of it.
- Tongue cleaning. Invest in a tongue scraper. If you look at your tongue and it's coated with colors other than pink, that’s an indication it needs to be cleaned.
- Disclosing tablet. Before you brush, try chewing disclosing tablets, which temporarily stain the plaque on your teeth. This will drastically improve the effectiveness of your brushing.
- Toothbrush care. Use a soft brush or electric toothbrush. Change it every three months. Clean your toothbrush regularly. Here are some ways to keep your toothbrush clean: take 1 tsp of peroxide in 1 cup of water, swish around the bristles of the toothbrush, or let it soak for 15 minutes in a hydrogen peroxide solution. You can also store your toothbrush in a UV sanitizer. Either way, keep your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.
- Stress management. Studies show when you are stressed, your immune system is compromised, making it harder for your body to fight infections. High levels of the stress hormones triggers protein production and as a result inflammation in the gums, which can lead to gum disease. Stress can also produce cold sore blisters and canker sores in the mouth. And a stressed person tends to grind their teeth, which can damage both the tooth and the jaw (TMJ) structures. Find ways to drastically reduce stress: practice yoga, meditate, get into journaling, exercise, and seek counseling if needed. Volunteering and other activities that serve others also reduces stress.
- Addictive Substances. Adjust and drastically reduce habits like smoking, alcohol, caffeine.
- Hydration. Water intake is crucial for saliva production and to keep oral cells hydrated. Water is also a great mouth cleaner because it washes away leftover food and residue that cavity-causing bacteria love to eat. It also dilutes the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth.
Achieving optimal oral health isn't rocket science, but it does require consistency and effort. By following the tips I've shared, you can take your oral health to the next level and proudly show off your smile on World Oral Health Day and every day.