While different regions celebrate healthy smiles at various times, for some, April is Oral Health month. Regardless of when your area recognizes dental professionals, it’s a great time to consider booking an appointment with your dentist if it’s been awhile since your last check-up (and even more of a reason to give them a call if you can’t remember when your last professional cleaning was!). Your dentist and their team are the only ones who can properly diagnose and treat most oral health problems—and, these issues don’t just affect your mouth, but can effect your entire body!
It either seems strange or makes a lot of sense—the majority of things that enter our bodies come in through our mouths—a good portion of the air we breathe, food we eat, what we drink, and yeah, sometimes some stuff that shouldn’t get in there like rain or pool water (or a splash from a truck!) or the occasional insect—yuck. Which means that keeping our mouths clean (and not just by keeping our language clean!) can help us stay healthy by limiting the bacteria introduced to our bodies this way. Inflammation that is present in gum disease is from the buildup of bacteria on the gumline, that can cause gums to become puffy, red and swollen—if gums start to bleed, this is another entryway for bacteria to hit our bloodstream.
For people with diabetes, oral infections can cause inflammation that increases insulin resistance, making it more difficult to control blood sugar levels . And while the link is unclear, 91% of people with heart disease also have periodontal (gum) disease—a 25% increased risk from those without heart disease—the theory is the inflammation present increases inflammation in blood vessels, increasing risk of heart disease and stroke through narrowing vessels  Hormonal changes with pregnancy can affect oral health , but while lesser-known about, women on birth control pills may experience changes in their oral health, too (an oddity i personally experienced when I went to my dentist a few years ago complaining that my mouth felt “weird”—he said my teeth were super clean and everything looked fine. I noted that my doctor had recently changed the hormones I was taking for my fibroids, and he just said “Hormones will do funny things.” Sure enough, I switched back to my old brand, and my teeth felt better within a week!). Other conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, lung infections and obesity can all have effects on oral health—so if you have any of these conditions, dry mouth from medications, or Sjogren Syndrome (which can cause dry mouth), it’s especially important to stay on top of keeping that smile shiny!
Taking good care of your teeth doesn’t have to take a lot of time out of your day. Here are the steps the Canadian Dental Association has outlined to promote positive oral health :
- Use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride. Remember, a very small drop—about the size of a pea—is recommended on packaging for kids, but is all that’s necessary for adults too—though we are less prone to swallowing it than kids, which is why the small amount is recommended for those under six [2, 3, 4]—what’s a pea sized drop? Dentistry.com says this is equivalent to “a small pea”, or to apply a thin layer of toothpaste to the brush—this actually has a name: a nirdle (which is too much fun to say!) .
- Floss daily. Make it a habit by setting a reminder, or pairing it with another activity that doesn’t require your hands.
How else can you maintain good oral health? 
- Eat a well balanced diet, and limit sugar and excess carbohydrates. Choose foods like cheese, nuts, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits (learn more about acidic fruits here—it’s not as straight-forward as you might think!)
- Check your mouth for signs of gum disease regularly—red or white patches, bleeding with brushing or flossing, and bad breath are all signs that your gums need some TLC!
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco—this contributes not only to many oral health problems, but also oral and other cancers.
- Visit your dentist regularly—every 3, 6 or 9 months is common for insurance plans to approve, but your dentist may recommend a different schedule for you based on your needs.
The American Dental Association [ADA} recommends replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months . Most dentists will provide one at your check-up, but I’ve never been denied when asking for a second (sometimes it’s hard to pick colours, okay?) if you’d like to avoid the overwhelm of the toothbrush aisle! And on that topic, manual or electric? The ADA says it doesn’t matter, and as long as you brush thoroughly, any brush meeting their criteria (and receiving their seal of approval—the Canadian Dental Association has a similar system) can do an equivalent job if used regularly and properly. It’s all about your preference—I am a ridiculous person with a Bluetooth enabled power toothbrush, and while I feel like my teeth are cleaner for it, I know many people who have ditched the power brush to return to the oldschool manual variety. It’s about what will encourage you to use it at least two minutes twice a day (and for me, that smiley face on my timer and graphs in my phone are that incentive!)
What kind of toothbrush do you use? What helps you to remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day? Whether it’s having a neon yellow toothbrush or listening to your favourite two-minute tune, let us know in the comments!