Trucking is hard on every part of your body – including the teeth. More truckers smoke and drink coffee and caffeinated beverages than the general public. The long hours and time spent without bathroom stops and personal hygiene can be really detrimental to your oral care. When you’ve driven for 11 hours and are exhausted, the last thing you’re going to do is haul your butt inside to floss and brush. Here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the mouth funk, without having to carry a Waterpik in the truck.
Any dentist will tell you flossing is the one thing people don’t do enough of. Even if you don’t have a piece of barbeque stuck between your teeth, it’s important to run a piece of string through there to wake the gum up and let everybody know the tooth is still alive.
Flossing used to take two hands and a mirror, but the dental industry has made it easy for you by inventing all kinds of gadgets used to clean between the teeth that can be used with one hand and without a mirror. (see picture) George keeps a pack of the little floss picks within arm’s reach and has made a habit of using them when he’s waiting anywhere. However you work it into your schedule, it’s important and will improve your overall dental health if you floss.
Brushing is obviously the sister of flossing in the clean tooth world. It’s hard to brush when you don’t have running water. I’ve brushed many times with bottled water on the side of the road and it sucks. Our dentist recommended a Waterpik and I recommended to her that she look at the inside the cab and tell me where the hell I’m supposed to hook it up. Keep one at home for that “spa” feeling when you have time, but don’t expect to use one on the road.
A sonic toothbrush is second choice, and they are nice, but have to be charged. If you don’t have an inverter, or your truck is completely full of electronic devices like ours, it’s not very practical. Most of us are stuck with an old-fashioned hand-powered toothbrush on the road. Although that’s not the pinnacle of clean, it’s certainly better than nothing.
Clean your tongue. My momma says that to me all the time when I curse, but I mean clean your tongue in the literal way. Brush it with the toothbrush, or invest two bucks in one of those weird tongue scrapers. However you do it, it only makes sense that a clean tongue helps promote clean teeth. There is an ancient branch of Chinese medicine that believes they can diagnose anything wrong with you by looking at the coating on your tongue. I think all they can tell is if you’re eating Oreos, but what do I know?
Drink more water. Water is the stuff of life. We’re basically a giant water balloon with bones crammed in it. Water will improve kidney and bladder function, you’ll take in less calories and it’s much easier on your teeth than coffee or soda. Even fruit juice leaves an acid bath on your teeth that can cause breakdown of the enamel, the armor of your mouth. Drink all the juice you want, but rinse your mouth out afterward. It’s just as bad to let juice residue sit in your mouth as candy bar residue.
Listerine is still one of the best things you can carry in your bathroom kit. If you’re beat and don’t feel like brushing or flossing, take a swig of Listerine and swish it around before you pass out. I’d much rather see someone spitting a mouthful of Listerine into the parking lot than a wad of chaw. It breaks up the plaque on the teeth and kills the nastiest of germs you’re carrying around in your mouth.
Humans have a disgusting amount of bad germs in their mouths, which is why a human bite is 10 times more likely to get infected than any other. If you have chronic sinus, ear or throat infections, making a Listerine gargle part of your before-bed routine will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend sick. As difficult as it is to take care if yourself on the road, its the most important investment you can make.
The only way that truck is going to move the freight it is with you behind the wheel, preferably happy and healthy. You don’t have to change your entire lifestyle to take care of your teeth, but you will notice an improvement in your overall health. Just a few minutes here and there can make a really big difference.
Wendy Parker rides with her husband, George Parker, an owner-operator who pulls dry van. She writes about her adventures and observations as a newcomer to the trucking. Read her regular blog here.