As the human species developed over time, our bodies adapted to allow us to process a diverse array of food to contribute to a healthy and balanced diet that promotes high-energy and longevity; none of this would have been possible if not for our highly sophisticated mouths. Our teeth are suited for an omnivorous diet that allows us to process vegetables and meat with ease — few other creatures are so well adapted in this way, so the question of oral hygiene and dental health is an all too pertinent one. At this time, around a quarter of all American adults have some degree of untreated dental cavities; nearly half of all Americans adults have some form of gum disease including gingivitis; and around 20% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have untreated decay that negatively impacts tooth and gum health — for these reasons a greater emphasis needs to be placed on oral hygiene starting with the establishment of good habits at an early age.
Practicing Oral Hygiene
Most of us were advised at an early age to brush and floss, but a significant portion of the population only brushes their teeth with some even neglecting to do just that. Brushing only cleans around 70% of the surface area of teeth; flossing is able to take care of the remaining 30% — coincidentally, cavities have a tendency to develop in the plaque-rich areas between teeth, making flossing a necessary precautionary step to avoiding cavities and promoting healthy gum health. Many parents start brushing their child’s teeth as soon as that first tooth emerges as a good practice; likewise, as soon as two teeth start touching one another, dental experts suggest that parents pick up the practice of flossing to begin establishing a good habit and thus healthy teeth for life.
Brushing and flossing are necessary to clean, healthy teeth and gums, yet there are additional factors that may affect oral health. The most common of these factors is sleep grinding where one abrasively clenches and grinds their teeth subconsciously in the middle of the night. A professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine found that clenching one’s teeth during sleep is equivalent to placing around 300 pounds of strain on one’s teeth. Other studies estimate that around 10% of the adult population and as much as 15% of the adolescent population have some degree of teeth grinding at night. Aside from the detrimental effects that this grinding can have on teeth over the span of years, many experts suggest that around 80% of all headaches occur from muscle tension — this includes the muscle tension resulting from dental stress from tooth grinding. Investing in specialized night guards can help negate the effects of night grinding and help relieve the pressure that may be causing migraines and headaches as well.
Life tends to have us expect the unexpected; even those that take all the precautionary steps and practice proper oral hygiene ought to regularly schedule visits to a dentist every six months. The American Dental Association recommends that new parents schedule a first appointment to the dentist as soon as their child spouts their first tooth in order to ensure that their child will have an early start on tooth and gum health. Gum health is a serious issue for three out of every four members of the U.S. population that suffer from early stages of gingivitis — if left untreated not only can this result in tooth loss over the years, but eventual deterioration of the jaw bone — the diet that we have become so adapted to over the years cannot be maintained without proper dental hygiene. Ensure that your family regularly brushes and flosses and schedules appointments to visit a dentist in order to ensure that your teeth and gums remain strong and healthy for life.