Oral health is one factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you look after your oral health.
- Schedule regular visits to your dentist.
- Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Check your mouth regularly to become familiar with what is normal for you. This will help you recognize when something in your mouth looks or feels different or abnormal.
- Avoid activities that might harm your mouth or teeth such as smoking, oral piercings and recreational drugs.
- Try to reduce the impact stress has on your oral and overall health.
- Alert your dentist to any herbal remedies, over-the-counter or prescription drugs you are taking.
- Wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth when you are playing sports. Read more about mouthguards.
What should my mouth look like on the inside?
Between dental visits check your mouth for warning signs of gum disease and oral cancer.
Warning signs of gum disease may include:
- puffy, red, sore, shiny or sensitive gums
- bleeding when you brush or floss
- bad breath that won’t go away
Warning signs of oral cancer may include:
- numbness and tingling
- open sores that don’t go away within a week to 10 days
- unexplained bleeding
- lumps or thickening on the bottom or sides of your tongue, cheeks, or roof of your mouth.
If you notice any of these signs, or have any concerns, call your dentist immediately.
Back to top
People may overlook the effect stress has on our oral health. However, our mouths can be just as affected by stress as the rest of our bodies are. Stress can have real consequences for our oral health as well as overall well-being.
Stress can make people neglect their oral-health routines. They may not brush or floss as often as they should or miss dental appointments. People under stress sometimes make poor lifestyle choices – smoking, consuming too much alcohol and eating more sugary foods – which can lead to serious issues including oral cancer, gum disease or tooth decay.
Stress is a contributing factor to other serious oral-health conditions, including:
- Bruxism, or teeth grinding. People under stress may clench or grind their teeth, especially during sleep. Over a long period of time, bruxism can wear down tooth surfaces. Teeth can also become painful or loose from severe grinding or prone to fractures.
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) affects the jaws joints and groups of muscles that let us chew, swallow, speak and yawn. Symptoms include tender or sore jaw muscles, headaches and problems opening or closing your mouth. Bruxism is a major cause of TMD – clenching your jaw muscles can cause them to ache.
- Periodontal (gum) disease. Research has shown that stress affects our immune systems, increasing our susceptibility to infections, including the bacteria that cause gum disease.
- Xerostomia, or dry mouth, can also be caused by medications to treat stress. Saliva is vital to keep your mouth moist, wash away food and neutralize the acids that are produced by plaque. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth.
It may be impossible to eliminate all stress from your life, but you can take simple steps to reduce its impact on your health.
- Find relaxation techniques or exercises to help you cope with stress.
- Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
- Schedule and keep regular appointments with your dentist.
- Talk to your dentist about getting a custom-fitted nightguard to protect your teeth while you sleep.
- Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Stay active. If you don't have time to exercise, a 30-minute walk every day is a good start.
- Get plenty of sleep.
Back to top
It’s important to know that all types of tobacco including cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco are harmful for your oral health. In addition to containing nicotine — which is addictive — they have been all been known to cause:
- gum disease
- tooth loss
- oral cancer (cancer of the lip, tongue)
- cancer of the esophagus and voice box
- pancreatic, esophagal, colon and bladder cancer
Almost 75% of gum disease in adults is caused by smoking. Also, your gums may recede as a result of smoking. This may lead to tooth decay and an increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks.
Find out more about tobacco cessation and how your dentist can help.
Back to top
If you are considering an oral piercing, it’s important to know the potential side-effects. Here are some of the complications that may occur:
- Your mouth contains a lot of bacteria. Oral piercing may lead to infection
- Your piercing may result in pain, swelling or gum tissue damage
- Your piercing may cause chipped or cracked teeth
- A pierced blood vessel may cause uncontrollable bleeding
- In some cases, your swollen tongue can actually block your airway and inhibit your breathing
Back to top
Did you know that there are consequences for your oral health when you decide to use recreational drugs? It’s true! Here are some examples:
- Tooth loss: Using tobacco, ecstasy, amphetamines and methamphetamines, can lead to the constriction of the capillaries in your gums. This affects the attachment of the bone to the tissue of your teeth and may lead to tooth loss.
- Dry mouth: Marijuana, ecstasy, amphetamines, methamphetamines, heroin and replacement therapies may decrease the saliva production that occurs in your mouth. This will in turn, increase your risk for gum disease and tooth decay.
- Erosion and tooth decay: Ecstasy raises your body temperature and you will want to consume sugary liquids. Marijuana and heroin also cause sugar cravings. Frequent consumption of sugary drinks and sweets will weaken your tooth enamel. Vomiting after alcohol consumption may also erode your teeth.
Back to top
It’s important to be aware of how prescriptions and over-the counter-drugs may affect your oral health. For example:
- Asthma inhalers that are high in acid can dissolve tooth enamel when used frequently
- Cough syrups that have a high sugar content may result in tooth decay
- Antihistamines may cause dry mouth
- Aspirins, blood thinners and some herbal remedies may affect the ability of the blood to clot normally
The following medications may cause damage to your gums:
- oral contraceptives
- immunosuppressive drugs
- chemotherapy drugs
Talk to your dentist about how the prescription drugs you are taking might affect your oral health.
Back to top