Is there anything we take more for granted about our health than our teeth?
Your day is long, and maybe you’re sometimes out of time for yourself. But don’t cut back the time you spend on dental care. Taking care of your teeth now can save you time, money and possibly pain and suffering down the road. It can also keep your smile bright and breath fresh.
Don’t ignore the basics when you look after your teeth and gums. The best and easiest way to remove decay-causing plaque is to brush your teeth twice a day, and for added protection use toothpaste that contains fluoride. For proper brushing, use a soft-bristled brush and move it back and forth in short strokes, making sure to cover your gums and the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of your teeth. To remove bacteria and freshen your breath, make sure to brush your tongue. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
To prevent gum disease, clean between your teeth with floss. Bacteria still lingers between teeth where brush bristles cannot reach. Flossing also reaches under the gum line for added defense against plaque.
When flossing, gently glide the floss in between each tooth. Never snap the floss into your gums. While holding the floss, gently rub the contour of each tooth and under the gum line. Remember to move to a new piece of the floss for each tooth.
For those who have difficulties in handling the floss, try special brushes, picks or sticks. Ask your dentist about the proper way to use them to avoid gum injury.
Dentists also recommend having your teeth cleaned at their office every six months.
Eating a balanced diet is essential to dental health. We need calcium, protein and other important nutrients in our daily diet to maintain healthy teeth.
Although prevention is the best method, what if you already have gum disease? If you are experiencing any of the following problems, you need to visit your dentist as soon as possible:
- Sensitivity to chewing or temperature changes for more than two weeks
- Bleeding gums
- Tender or swollen gums
- Gums separated from the tooth
- Pus between gums and teeth
- Loose or moving teeth
- Change in your bite
- Constant bad breath or bad taste
Care on the road
There are some truckstops with available dental care, which can be very helpful in emergency situations. Take, for example, the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa. Dr. Thomas Roeman [(563) 284-6161] gets the majority of his business from drivers at this famous stopover. He does not take appointments, but you can call ahead to make sure he is in his office. He opens at 9 a.m. Monday-Saturday and closes at different times depending on the flow of patients. Check the truckstops you frequent to see if dental care is an option, or check the Yellow Pages at a truckstop for local emergency dentists.
If you are on the road and find yourself in a dental emergency, here are some suggestions to help reduce the amount of injury, according to the American Dental Association (www.ada.org).
Bitten lip or tongue: Gently clean the area with a cloth and apply a cold compress to reduce any swelling. You should go to a hospital emergency room if bleeding persists.
Broken tooth: Clean the area by rinsing your mouth with warm water. Apply a cold compress to reduce any swelling and call a dentist immediately.
Possible broken jaw: Apply a cold compress to your jaw to control swelling. Immediately go to a dentist or hospital emergency room.
Knocked out tooth: If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse the root by holding the crown in clean, running water or rinsing in purified or distilled water (perhaps a bottle of drinking water). Be sure not to rub it or remove any tissue fragments. If you can, insert the tooth back in the socket or put it in a glass of milk and immediately get to the dentist with the tooth – it might be saved.
Objects caught between teeth: Gently remove the debris with dental floss. Do not use a sharp object to remove anything from your mouth to avoid cutting your gums. If you cannot remove the object, seek dental assistance.
Toothache: Clean your mouth by rinsing with warm water. Use dental floss to remove any debris lodged between the teeth. Aspirin and other pain medications should be taken orally but not left in your mouth because this might burn your gums. If the pain persists, visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Are those pearly whites more like pearly browns these days?
Over time, teeth can become discolored or stained by age, tobacco, coffee, tea or even too much fluoride. But there are a number of whitening toothpastes, over-the-counter whitening systems and even a laser tooth whitening option. Your choice depends on the severity of the discoloration.
Some whitening toothpastes can effectively keep teeth clean, but some actually remove the stain abrasively instead of simply whitening it and are best used with care.
Over-the-counter or prescribed whiteners designed for home use can be easily used on the road. Some use a bleaching solution in a tray specifically molded to the wearer’s mouth. This tray is worn for a specified amount of time, depending on the desired effect. These kits can range from $300-$500. Some over-the-counter methods use other ways to whiten – for example painting on a paste to wear overnight – but some can wear away tooth enamel and are best used under supervision of a professional.
Other options available include:
Before choosing any teeth-whitening options, evaluation by a dentist is recommended to help you make the right decision.
For more information on dental care, visit www.ada.org.